Liz Truss bans solar projects on farms as Tory MP warns plan ‘unwise’ | Politics news

Liz Truss is poised to ban solar projects from most farms in England in a move that will scare climate change campaigners and some Tory backbenchers.

The prime minister has long opposed solar farms on farmland, condemning them as “a blight on the countryside” when she was environment secretary in 2014.

And during the Tory leadership campaign this summer, she said she wanted to see farmers producing food with crops and livestock, “not filling fields with equipment like solar farms”.

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Confirming an impending ban on solar energy projects on agricultural land, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We want to increase long-term energy and food security.

“We look at regulations and investments that affect farmers to ensure that our projects increase food production and protect the environment. Farmers are the best at deciding how best to use their land.”

Under proposed changes to planning regulations, it is estimated that solar projects will be banned from around 40% of land in England and almost 60% of agricultural land.

But the sun ban has already been criticized by Tory MP Angela Richardson, who has a majority of just 3,337 over the Lib Dems in her “Blue Wall” constituency of Guildford in Surrey.

“There is a planning application for a solar farm in my constituency which I support as it will help my local university reach its net zero target by 2030,” she tweeted.

“A general ban on solar installations would be unwise. They should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.”

Mrs Truss voiced her strong hostility to wind farms at the Tory leadership parties in Darlington on August 9 and in Cheltenham on August 11.

“I’m someone who wants to see farmers producing food, not filling out forms, not doing red tape, not filling fields with equipment like solar farms,” ​​she said in Darlington. “What we want are crops and we want livestock.”

Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss speaks during a hustings event, part of the Conservative Party leadership campaign, in Exeter, Britain, August 1, 2022. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Liz Truss spoke about her opposition to solar farms on farmland during the Tory leadership campaign

Two days later in Cheltenham, she said: “I think one of the most depressing sights when you drive through England is to see fields that should be full of crops or livestock full of solar panels.

“I’m not against solar panels per se. There are plenty of commercial roofs in the UK where we could put solar panels. But where they shouldn’t be is on agricultural land that should be used for food production.”

The dispute over solar panels on farmland comes as the Prime Minister faces a rural rebellion over conservation and the environment as she pursues her quest for economic growth.

Environmentalists and wildlife campaigners have reacted angrily to her response to Greenpeace protesters interrupting her Tory conference speech as she denounced them as part of an “anti-growth coalition”.

In a Sunday Times interview at the weekend, National Trust chief Hilary McGrady accused Ms Truss of “demonising” conservationists and said her members were outraged and concerned by the threat posed by her policies.

‘Empowering Local Places’

Scrapping EU laws protecting the environment, creating the government’s proposed investment zones in national parks and lifting the ban on fracking are also bitterly opposed by the green lobby.

And as MPs return to Westminster after the party conference break with Tory support collapsing in opinion polls, some Conservative MPs are also alarmed by the prospect of rural voters leaving the party.

Defending the plan to allow investment zones in national parks, a government spokesman told Sky News: “Investment zones will deliver the growth, jobs and housing that communities want and need.

“They are not being imposed by government – we are empowering local places to deliver plans that suit their area. We will not de-prioritize the strong and established protection of national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and protected sites.

“National greenbelt policy will continue to apply and all proposals must have the consent of local planners or national park authorities. Those that do not will not be taken forward and cannot become an investment zone.”

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