Clean Power Pickles

Published on June 23rd, 2014 | by James Ayre


Hacheston Solar Farm In UK Blocked By MP Eric Pickles, Solar Sector Uneasy

June 23rd, 2014 by  

The proposed Hacheston solar farm is apparently now a no-go thanks to the intervention of the current Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles.

The decision to block the development of the solar farm — which would have covered 127 acres and featured 100,000 solar panels — has many in the UK solar sector feeling uneasy, with the future of many pending projects now seeming uncertain.

PicklesImage Credit: Pickles via Wiki CC

The recent intervention is certainly not precedent-setting. Though, just last week, a proposed 100-acre solar project in Tattingstone was blocked by the local planning authority as well, mostly as a result of a campaign against the project by celebrity Griff Rhys Jones.

In contrast to the blocking of the Hacheston project, the stated reason for blocking Tattingstone is (arguably) understandable — the land in question is productive agricultural land. Given the UK’s already great reliance on food imports, the use of agriculturally productive land for energy generation does seem ill-advised — especially considering the fact that there are no doubt a substantial number of very pleasant “brown-sites” available that would otherwise not be productive at all, as well as rooftops.

Of course, whether or not that was the actual reason that the project was campaigned against and blocked is an open question.

Rhys Jones commented on the victory at the time in an interview with the Telegraph: “This is not a victory for my backyard, it is a victory for all our backyards. We need renewables but we need them to be sited with forethought and care and not random opportunism. There are many suitable places for solar farms but they do not include beautiful countryside and good arable land.”

Hmm… I’m inclined to agree.

The UK really isn’t in the position to be repurposing some of its remaining arable land for other purposes.

That said, the end of (proposed) large solar projects isn’t a pleasant sight — and its one that could have a deleterious effect on the development pipeline, especially considering that Pickles’ opposition to renewables likely has nothing to do with the protection of arable land, and that he has repeatedly used the planning system to block solar and wind energy projects.

There’s been some opposition to his recent actions, though, and it appears to be growing. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

In related news, the UK was actually recently predicted to be the biggest solar PV market in Europe in 2014, according to the new NPD Solarbuzz UK Deal Tracker report. The reason for the (projected, and also new) dominance was significant growth in ground-mounted solar PV projects (like the blocked projects mentioned above) in 2014. Hmmm…

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • dango-man

    One of his insane decisions to block a solar farm was recently overturned

    In regard to what land is used the majority of the applications are making use of brown fields sites or old/running airports to build their panels. Also not all land is available for farming crops and is used instead for animals, who can feed alongside solar panels. So in the UK at least we will see more double digit solar panel farms as there’s the space for them but never a single installation over 100MW.

  • Matt

    “There are many suitable places for solar farms but they do not include beautiful countryside and good arable land”
    While if the land is really good farm land that is one thing. But countryside, implies all the land I can see that isn’t in the city. For example, some land is used to graze sheep/cows because it is too low quality for growing crops. PV can be built so that the grazing is still possible. So while I personally prefer DG (rooftop, parking lot, brown field, etc) over remote PV farms. A “ban” on all “countryside” development sounds more like someone not wanting anyone to mess with their dream on the country life on their weekend trips.

    • Fellrunner

      So, a solar farm to create renewable energy was refused – but recently a Government appointed planning inspector granted permission for an opencast coal mine in a beautiful unspoilt part of Northumberland adjacent to a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
      What exactly is this government’s agenda?

      • JamesWimberley

        Defending landowners (link to George Monbiot). This makes solar on farmland a real headache. Pickles belongs to the “Essex” wing of his party – a self-made Greater Londoner in Norman Tebbit’s footsteps – socially very unlike the Old Etonian “Marie Antoinette” wing of weekend country gents like Cameron. Wind farms block the view from the manor, and we can’t have that, but solar farms are money-spinners hidden away.

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