Suffolk Coastal: MP Therese Coffey calls on councils to form planning guidelines over renewable energy applications

LOCAL authorities must come up with their own planning guidelines to ensure valuable farmland is not lost to renewable energy developments, an MP has warned.

Suffolk Coastal’s Therese Coffey outlined her concerns during a Parliamentary debate.

She said she was increasingly worried about the amount of good grade farmland starting to be used for other purposes – particularly energy production.

The loss of land for agricultural use would lead to less produce being grown, forcing up prices and impacting on food security, she said.

“There have been speculative applications for solar farms on arable farmland,” she said. “Reducing the amount of good farmland will in turn reduce the supply of domestically produced food which can adversely impact food prices and reduce our food security.

“Both Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils should get on the front foot and devise their own supplementary planning guidance on renewable energy for their local plans so they can take a strategic look on the use of agricultural land.”

A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal and Waveney said they had to follow Government guidelines and each application was judged on its individual merits.

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He said in the case of Suffolk Coastal its Core Strategy - which is set to be examined by a planning inspector over the coming weeks - followed national policy and therefore generally encouraged the generation of renewable energy, particularly where it will serve local communities, although they would seek to protect environmental assets.

“Unless and until our Core Strategy has been approved we cannot attempt to develop any new supplementary guidance on this issue or indeed any other issue,” he added.

He said Waveney adopted a similar positive approach - subject to environmental considerations - and was currently preparing a Supplementary Planning Document to help in the implementation of this policy, which will shortly be subject to public consultation.