Motion to full Council North Kesteven District Council 25.01.24

From Lincolnshire Independent Cllr Peter Overton

To listen to the 5 minute speech, click this Link   Scroll on the recording to 1.21 to 1.27 .

 

This Council supports the stance on large solar industrial developments, taken by the County Council, seeking to limit large industrial solar developments on agricultural land. (NSIPs)

 

I propose:

 

  1. This council writes to the Minister of State for energy and net zero requesting a strategic approach across the country, where agricultural areas like North Kesteven do not become dumping grounds for excessive development.

 

  1. This council requests a sequential test be incorporated into planning decision-making, which enables solar developments on commercial roofs, car parks and other developed areas to be prioritised over open countryside.

 

  1. This Council works with the County Council in developing an energy statement, which enables NK to reach its Net Zero target by 2030, without damaging our rural heritage, including damage to agriculture and tourism on which we depend.

 

Large scale industrial complexes (National Infrastructure Projects) for producing solar power on undeveloped rural land in North Kesteven, are an unsustainable change of use of the land. At the scale and in the locations of recent proposals they are damaging to our local agricultural and tourism economy.  We should encourage full investigation of appropriate alternatives on any existing built sites or sites with existing planning consents.

 

There seems to be confusion, Chairman, between the absolute and widely agreed necessity of achieving net zero at the earliest date, by 2030 according to NKDC plan, and the rush to solar power to achieve this target. I believe that this is wrong thinking. All the available evidence suggests that this will not work.

 

  1. These solar developments will not come on stream before the early 2030s
  2. The pay-back before embedded carbon is repaid is likely to be a further 7-10 years, or longer if the main supplier of panels, China, continues to use coal fired power stations for energy.
  3. The main requirement for the extra power will be during periods when solar is least productive.

 

Chairman, I would stress that the net effect of these industrial complexes will be to increase carbon emission here in NK during the period when there is most urgency to reduce it, as agreed in the NK plan. This Council voted for less CO2 emissions by 2030 not more!

 

Let us be quite clear; the only proven and safe route to solving our environmental crisis is a combination of a substantial reduction in wasteful consumption of energy, and a huge effort to repair damage and increase our natural ecosystems.  We seem to be trying to convince ourselves that the destructive economic drivers of the industrial revolution no longer apply to so-called green energy solutions. Trying to solve one environmental problem by creating another one is simply nonsense.

 

The Government is pumping billions into encouraging our farmers to plant woodlands and improve biodiversity. Most of this will take place on Grade 3 and Grade 4 Land. This is the land that needs most protection from industrial solar complexes. Much Grade 1 land in Lincolnshire may be under water or back to salt marsh by 2050 anyway, which only emphasises the need to protect all land, no matter what arbitrary grade it is given. I believe that only the land that we have already developed or is immediately adjacent to existing supply needs should be considered.

 

National Grid cannot provide the capacity without massive overseas investment, probably largely from America and China. The heavy UK subsidy money will head back overseas and we in North Kesteven will be left with our own environmental legacy to benefit, potentially, over-consumption elsewhere. Of course, ‘elsewhere’ are busy developing their own systems so we may end up with stranded assets damaging our local environment as we have seen with some wind farms.

 

We have to recognise the wider impacts of our actions. The Congo will suffer yet more destruction of rainforest that is currently locking up huge quantities of carbon and the arid parts of Bolivia, need the water that the Lithium mining will soak up, more than they need the mining. All of this to feed our rampant consumption with no clear plan to reduce it – which is the only sustainable way forward and the approach already taken by this council. At the very least we should slow down this narrow solar ambition in NK to make sure it has positive not negative outcomes.

 

We need to send government a strong message that planning is here for a reason. It is to stop unnecessary damage to the well-being of both this generation and those that follow. It is not here to line the pockets of international companies or, even worse still in my opinion, to encourage excessive consumption of energy at home.

 

Chairman, in summary: Solar panels may have their place. Lincolnshire farmland is not it. And certainly not on this scale. We need industrial plants on sites that are not already capturing carbon. That is, developed sites and a proper sequential approach to planning which we have already adopted in our local plan.

Outcome: Passed unanimously with small amendment.

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