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Peterborough solar farm plan angers farmers

By Katie Anderson on October 1, 2012

A plan to turn 3,000 acres of farmland into a solar PV farm has angered farmers living and working in the region.

Peterborough City Tenant Farmers’ Association (PCTFA) has criticised Peterborough City Council’s plan to build the solar farm, which would generate millions of pounds in revenue over the next couple of decades.

PCTFA claims that as many as 18 tenants would be affected by the building of the solar farm, which could force residents to leave their homes. The main issue for the PCTFA is that the installation would destroy valuable farmland in the region, leaving many farmers out of work.

William Cave, who works on Eardley Grange Farm, fears the initiative would turn Newborough Farm, America Farm and Morris Fen into an ‘industrial landscape’.

Mr Cave said: “It’s very distressing. This large scheme will go on top-quality Fenland soil, producing high-value crops such as sugar beet, potatoes and oil see rape. People will lose their livelihoods and homes. We’ve been politicised by this”.

Peterborough City Council, meanwhile, estimates that the solar project would generate up to  137 million over the 20-year period in which the council would be able to receive money under the government-backed Feed-In Tariff.

Although exporting clean solar energy to the National Grid could provide a substantial income for Peterborough City Council, ousting farmers from their homes could worsen the local economy. Peterborough City Council insists that the money generated by the solar farms would be used to pay for critical services during times of public-spending cutbacks.

Installing solar photovoltaic panels can cause all number of problems. In the present case, farmers are clearly concerned about losing their homes and livelihoods, whilst the local council is determined to recover funds that were lost as a result of the government’s austerity measures. Sometimes conflicts arise over less substantial issues.

In Thornbury, for example, residents have accused a local couple of spoiling the neighbourhood after solar photovoltaic panels were fitted to an 18th century property. The installation was given planning permission because the building is not listed, however, neighbours have complained that it ruins the character of the street.

Property owner Ann Riddiford explained: “I really don’t know what the fuss is about… we heard about the government scheme on solar panels… so we signed up for it”.