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As an example, we are now trying to overturn permission for a 164-acre solar development in the north Devon district of Torridge. If we succeed, it could influence how councils across the country determine applications for other big solar farm developments in the countryside. By helping us, you will be helping to oppose future huge solar farms degrading valuable farmland where you live. This legal case alone is likely to cost around £50,000, but early indications – the council has already conceded, and only the developer is now fighting on – suggest we could win.
Will you help us campaign against massive solar farms being planted across some of the world’s best agricultural land – land that could and should be making a far bigger contribution to carbon reduction than inefficient solar technology?
Devon CPRE is a small independent charity that urgently needs your help. Across the country, developers are jumping on a bandwagon that makes it easy to persuade local planning committees to grant permission for ‘medium-sized’ solar farms of around 160 acres – each one the size of an average West Country farm.
For instance, we are currently working to overturn permission for a 164-acre solar development in the north Devon district of Torridge; a case that could cost around £50,000, but which we have a good chance of winning. The controversial application was recently given the go-ahead by Torridge District Council despite a strong campaign by Devon CPRE and residents of the rural parish of Pyworthy, including actor John Nettles OBE. But this case is only the tip of an ever-expanding iceberg.
Please read on to find out how your support can help us protect our precious farmland, landscapes and natural environment.
Developers tell us that covering thousands of acres in glass, metal and concrete is a good, ‘green’ use of our farmland. But these developments are a highly inefficient use of farmland and an ineffective way to produce sustainable power in our cloudy climate. And there is strong evidence that the majority of the solar panels on the market are made using Uyghur forced labour in Chinese factory complexes.
Across Devon, more than 4300 acres of agricultural land – the equivalent of 25 farms – have already been lost to solar development. Yet still, the applications come thick and fast, not just in Devon but across the whole country. Untold acres of productive land in the UK have been lost at a time when they are badly needed for food security. We should be producing homegrown food instead of relying on importing it from across the world, with all the carbon emissions that entails. We should be supporting our farmers to produce food in a more sustainable way, rather than taking land out of production. Well-farmed land with a mix of arable and livestock is the best form of carbon-capture we’ve yet discovered.
Devon’s most recently approved solar farm is a key case. On 4 November 2021, Torridge councillors voted 5:4 to follow their Planning Officer’s recommendation to allow a 164-acre (66-hectare) solar farm in Pyworthy, NW Devon. Permission was granted despite extensive local opposition: more than 200 letters of objection were received from a parish of less than 400 households, and only a tiny handful in favour.
There are already five operational solar farms in the area. The deck is stacked against communities like Pyworthy, because solar farms like to share their grid access points: where there is one, more follow. If this one goes ahead, 28 more fields will be lost and there will be an acre of solar panels for every household in the parish.
The decision notice was published on 10th November 2021. Click here to view, and click 10 Nov 2021, Decision.
This is an important case, but there are sure to be more to come. Torridge alone currently has two more large-scale solar farm applications in the planning system. Other districts have many more. That’s why we believe it’s important to challenge this decision NOW. But these campaigns cost a lot of money.
An important democratic principle is at stake in this David-versus-Goliath-type-scenario – small rural communities and a local countryside charity, versus councils that should be required to act in the interests of their residents and according to their own policies, and international corporations with deep pockets and big ambitions.
Can you support us in this vital campaign?
We know there are many other demands on your purse at this time of year. But we have to act and act fast, before it’s too late. Anything you can give will really help us. Please, donate. If you are a UK taxpayer, by pledging Gift Aid to us as a registered charity every pound you give is worth an extra 25p.
We’d love to have you with us for the long haul
Thank you for helping us with this campaign. If you want to support Devon CPRE in our fight to protect the environment and our countryside, why not become a member? It costs just £36 a year for individuals - the price of a takeaway coffee each month - and membership has many benefits. Find out more at https://www.cpredevon.org.uk/membership/