Introduce new restrictions on solar facilities to protect land and food security

Prohibit 'mega solar facilities' over 50MW on UK farmland; establish solar development preference hierarchies and regional density caps to help protect our natural landscapes, ensure food security, and conserve biodiversity.

This petition closed on 23 May 2024 with 17,343 signatures


Reticulating Splines

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Government policy must align net zero aims with food security and regional integrity. Establishing formal priorities for solar development on brownfields, rooftops, and lower-grade land, plus regional solar density caps, could help ensure energy targets are met without compromising rural landscapes or broader security interests.


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Government Response

Monday 22nd April 2024

Government recognises that solar projects impact local areas. Our planning system considers these against the need to secure a clean energy future and protect our most productive agricultural land.


The UK has huge potential for solar power: it is a cheap, versatile, and effective technology that is a key part of the Government’s strategy for net zero, energy independence and clean growth.

As set out in the British Energy Security Strategy and the Energy Security Plan, we are aiming for 70 gigawatts (GW) of ground-mount and rooftop solar capacity by 2035.

Large solar projects above 50 Megawatts (MW) capacity are decided by the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero through the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime in accordance with the guidance set out in energy National Policy Statements (NPSs).

We recognise that as with any new development, solar projects may impact on communities, the environment and landscapes. It is important that the Government can strike the right balance between these considerations and securing a clean, green energy system for the future. The planning system allows all views to be taken into account when decision makers balance local impacts with national need.

As set out in the recently published, revised NPS EN-3 guidance document for renewables, solar developers should, where possible, utilise previously developed land, brownfield land, contaminated land and industrial land. Where the proposed use of any agricultural land has been shown to be necessary, poorer quality land should be preferred to higher quality land (avoiding the use of “best and most versatile” agricultural land where possible). If it is proposed to use any land falling under Natural England’s ‘best and most versatile agricultural land’ classifications (grades 1, 2, 3a), developers are required to justify using such land and design their projects to avoid, mitigate and, where necessary, compensate for any impacts.

Solar and farming can be complementary, supporting each other financially, environmentally and through shared use of land. Government considers that meeting energy security and climate change goals is urgent and of critical importance to the country, and that these goals can be achieved together with maintaining food security for the UK.

Increasing installation of rooftop solar is a priority for Government so in practice we expect a considerable proportion to come from rooftop solar projects.

In December last year, the Government introduced changes to permitted development rights for solar equipment. These changes simplify planning processes for larger commercial rooftop installations (including farm buildings) and introduce a new permitted development right for solar canopies, enabling more solar installations to benefit from the flexibilities and planning freedoms permitted development rights offer.

We also concluded a full technical consultation on the Future Homes and Building Standards. As part of the consultation, we are exploring how we can continue to drive onsite renewable electricity generation, such as solar panels, where appropriate in new homes and buildings. We are currently analysing responses.

Additionally, this year UK Government launched a new package of measures to support British farming. Under the second round of the Improving Farm Productivity grant, between £15-25 million was made available for the installation of solar equipment to help farms reduce fossil fuel use, improve their energy resilience, and accelerate progress towards net zero.

Solar projects and agricultural practice can co-exist. Many solar projects are designed to enable continued livestock grazing. A science of agrivoltaics is developing in which solar is integrated with arable farming in innovative ways. Solar energy can also be an important way for farmers to increase their revenue from land less suited to higher value crop production.

Department Energy Security & Net Zero


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