July 3, 2013
UK Parliament to Debate Large Scale Solar PV Parks
It was announced on Twitter earlier today that the UK's Backbench Business Committee has scheduled a debate in Westminster Hall on Thursday July 11th on the topic of large scale solar arrays. Never having heard of the Backbench Business Committee before I rummaged around on the UK Parliament web site and discovered this video, which explains how it works:
In brief the committee is:
A very recent innovation, the very first time that backbenchers themselves can choose issues and subjects that they want to have debated.
In this instance the backbencher in question is Dr. Sarah Wollaston, whose constituency is just down the road from here in Totnes. What's more her chosen subject is large scale solar PV parks! In the "issues" section of her web site Sarah explains at length her view on that delicate subject down here in not so sunny South West England. Again in brief:
The South Hams does well in the National League tables for solar panels on roofs and I am delighted by this. I maintain that roofs are where this technology belongs, not in our green fields, where they look sterile, ugly and out of place. Large solar farms are a waste of prime agricultural land and I believe that their proliferation will be damaging for food production.
That last sentence also summarises much of what I've been saying for the last 12 months, so I'm pleased to discover that the issue will soon get an airing in Parliament. After the announcement Sarah posted a "tweet" of her own, which read as follows:
Debate on the impact of large scale solar arrays will be 3pm on Thursday 11th, please ask your MP to contribute if your area is blighted
— Sarah Wollaston MP (@drwollastonmp) July 3, 2013
Whilst Teignbridge isn't exactly "blighted" by solar PV "farms" as yet I emailed my own Member of Parliament anyway, and you may wish to do so as well. I wonder whether the discussion will cover planning measures to ensure that the technology does go on large roofs?
In related news it seems as though new guidance on planning procedures for large scale solar arrays in England will be be released soon by the National Solar Centre. It's only a draft, but the version I've seen does say that for grade 1 and 2 agricultural land:
- National Planning Policy would not normally support development on the best agricultural land.
- The best quality land should be used for agriculture purposes.
- Clear justification on the benefits a development would have for the land to be taken out of full agriculture use would have to demonstrated.
and for grade 3 land it says:
Readily available maps may not identify whether grade 3 land is 3a or 3b. If the site is grade 3, it should be specifically assessed to establish whether the land meets the criteria for grade 3a or 3b.
A step in the right direction? On the topic of solar PV on roofs the draft NSC guidance also has this to say about "Community scale roof panels":
In many cases fixing solar panels to a community or commercial roof is likely to be considered ‘permitted development’ under planning law with no need to apply for planning permission.
With solar PV panels so cheap these days, why not generate electricity where it will be used instead of "in the middle of nowhere"? In fact why not insist upon it?
P.S. It seems the video above works in retrospect also. Fast forward until the time in the bottom right reads 15:00 to skip the preceding social care reform debate.
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