David beats Goliath

EGMANTON PARISH MEETING

Ms Laura Gardener
Case officer NSDC
Proposed solar farm construction off Weston Road, Egmanton
Reference: 13/01422/FULM

Executive summary
The residents of Egmanton, at a properly convened meeting held on 28th April 2014, decided to submit a fifth paper to the Planning Committee in support of our request that the proposal to erect a solar farm on 60 acres of greenfield land in the parish be refused. This paper is intended to consolidate the points raised in the previous four papers. It stresses:-
• Good agricultural land should grow arable crops
• Each of the 13 brownfield sites named in the attached list should be researched thoroughly as single or combined substitutes for renewable energy generation
• Renewable firms should be creating manufacturing jobs not importing plastic
• Latest Government revised guidance on non-use of greenfield sites should be adhered to as also should the same commitment made by the solar industry’s trade association.
Government guidance
The proposition from ROC Energy was flawed from the outset.

It has always been the Government’s intention to steer the solar industry away from greenfield sites. This was stressed by the Minister in his address to the industry in April 13 and incorporated in revised guidance issued in March this year. And for three good reasons:-
• Keeping good arable land within the food chain
• Not risking a public backlash to an important fledgling industry
• Not placing farmers as meat in the sandwich.

This is not lost on the Solar Trade Association which has as No 1 of its 10 Commitments – “We will focus on non-agricultural land”. We understand that ROC Energy is not a member of its Trade Association.

Business model now misaligned
The website of a typical renewable energy firm will display solar modules placed in large tracts of green landscape. Indeed, they are termed “Solar Parks”. If one looks carefully, the occasional sheep might be spotted. This, of course, is to claim continued agricultural use of the land: only so in a very marginal sense. But, other images show industrial scapes and these businesses do have a Commercial Department. Indeed, installations such as Jaguar Landrover and Perkins Engines at Peterborough are quoted. We note the similarity with one of the Minister’s examples of where solar panels should be sited, namely the Bentley Motor Works in Crewe. So why are the commercial arms of renewable energy companies not looking for brownfield sites in the Trent Valley? Appendix 1 lists 13 possibilities. Given more time and expertise, many more would surely emerge as candidates.

UK needs to manufacture
Only ten manufacturers hold 45% of the world output of solar modules. Five of the ten are Chinese and China claims the single largest Suntech making 8.1% of all solar modules worldwide. In December last year, the EU introduced “Definitive anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures on imports of solar panels from China”.

A photograph taken within the last few days shows a field of oil-seed rape in
Egmanton Parish. At current yield and prices, this field would generate this season
£36,159 of oil. The UK is now an exporter of rape oil. The largest market that has
opened up is China. So, instead of importing hitherto below-cost solar modules from
China, what we should be doing is exporting our oil.

The business model of ROC Energy and companies like it seems clear.
Pay farmers to lease their land, import cheap Chinese solar modules, claim heavily
subsidised feed-in tariff and sell-off the finished capital scheme at a whopping profit.

Brave new world
A new industry, such as renewables, can be imaginative: it is not hide-bound by trade
and custom. What is wrong with railway embankments and cuttings – works in
Germany – talk now to UK Coal about the closing of Thoresby Colliery. Use the site
and re-train the miners for a new industry. Such thinking saves our green and pleasant
land instead of destroying Jerusalem, substitutes exports for imports, creates jobs of a
permanent nature and most of all avoids flying in the face of the wishes of local
communities whilst casting farmers as villains – which they are not.

J G Smith – honorary treasurer – Egmanton Parish Meeting
01 May 2014

Conclusion: After a lengthy debate by the councillors, the recommendation by the planning officer for the 60 acre green- field site scheme to go ahead, was rejected. In the end therefore and after a fierce fight by the residents of the conservation village, the developers will have to look for a suitable brown-field site in accordance with government guidance. David beats Goliath. No doubt an appeal will follow: we will be ready for it.