East Anglia: Region set for more solar farms because of EU subsidy changes, according to NFU Suffolk chairman Richard Scott

A solar farm development

A solar farm development - Credit: Archant

More of the countryside is likely to be used for new energy projects like solar farms because of changes to farming subsidies, according to a union boss.

Plans for a solar farm of almost 120 acres in Rickinghall, near Diss, follows a long list of similar proposals across Suffolk.

Chairman of Suffolk NFU, Richard Scott, believes the region is likely to see more farmers looking for alternative uses for their land after an European Union subsidies deal was struck.

He said: “I think it’s possible that there will be more applications of these type. Whether they’ll get through is another matter.

“Farmers have always looked for the best possible use of their land to earn an income. People have to realise farmers need to earn a living off the land.

“We really want to find a balance for land use as well as to look after the countryside.”

He added he would be surprised if solar farms were being built on prime agricultural land.

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The EU deal made last month will mean farmers are likely to see changes to the subsidies they are awarded. Mr Scott said he was concerned farmers would face cuts to their subsidies. But the Government has said it will now have more control over farming policy.

Initial plans for the solar farm in land off West Street, in Rickinghall, have been sent to Mid Suffolk District Council.

Simon Barnard, managing director of Bellis Energy, the promoter of the project, said: “We are going to meet with the parish council and hold a public consultation over the plans. There’s a big energy gap to fill and it’s important to keep the lights on. Solar farms will be an important part of that.”

He expects a full planning application to be made by the end of the summer. Similar plans are being put forward near Debenham and Great Blakenham.