September 1 2014 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Correspondent
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Solar farms must not be allowed to turn the countryside made famous by renowned artist John Constable into a “surrealist” painting, an Essex MP will tell the planning minister today.
Braintree’s Brooks Newmark said he did not want to be labelled a “nimby”, but will call for a change to the regulations to protect high-grade farm land, and represent the views of local people.
He has secured a debate in the Commons to raise concerns about plans by three developers to build solar farms around Pentlow, Foxearth, Liston, Belchamp St Paul and Belchamp Otten, near Sudbury.
He said: “If you looked at a Constable painting and imagined there were 300 acres of solar panels, you would think you were looking at a surrealist painting.”
He continued: “I want to be careful that I am not a nimby. I don’t want to support my constituents that are nimbies. But in this case, they have a justifiable case.”
He is supporting a plan on a disused airfield in Gosfield, near Braintree.
“That is something I am happy to support,” Mr Newmark added. “What I am not happy to support is something on prime agricultural land, in an area of outstanding beauty, which has no support whatsoever from the community. We need to differentiate between the two.”
He has already written to ministers Greg Barker and Eric Pickles and handed in a petition against the plans, with over 700 signataries.
He said he would ask planning minister Nick Boles to review regulations, which do not insist on an environmental impact assessment.
He said that “prime arable land” needed to be protected and local concerns taken into account.
He claimed that as long as biodiversity boxes were “ticked” – which could just mean sheep grazed on the land – councillors could be minded to override local opinion.
He said: “Not only do I want readers to imagine 8ft high solar panels in the Constable painting, but in between the solar panels I want them to imagine sheep grazing.
“It is something that Dali or Dada could never have dreamed up in their wildest imaginations.”