A proposal to site a solar farm that generates enough power for nearly 10,000 homes across more than 70 hectares of best quality farmland has divided a rural community.

Scores of residents in the Scruton area, between Northallerton and Bedale, have written to Hambleton District Council to voice their views over Lightrock Power Ltd’s plan for a 49.9MW solar farm south-west of the village ahead of the authority’s planning committee considering the scheme on Thursday.

The proposal follows Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake expressing disbelief over proposals to install solar panels on the area’s top grade agricultural fields, saying swapping energy security for food insecurity was “bonkers”.

His comments came as concerns mount over food security and sustainability and the Welsh government revealed it would advise refusal of future planning consents for in-field solar farms on most productive land.

In addition, last month a government inspector refused to sanction the loss of best and most versatile agricultural land in Norfolk to a proposed solar farm in light of an alternative less harmful approved scheme.

An officer’s report to the committee states a study of the proposed site found 71.7 hectares – the equivalent area to 177 football pitches – of the 77.5 hectares surveyed was classed as “best and most versatile” agricultural land.

Officers highlighted a ministerial statement from 2015 which states “meeting our energy goals should not be used to justify the wrong development in the wrong location and this includes the unnecessary use of high quality agricultural land. Protecting the global environment is not an excuse to trash the local environment.”

Nevertheless, the report states renewable electricity schemes will help improve the country’s energy security by reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels, a view that is shared in some of the 86 letters written in support of the scheme.

Planning officers said as the cost of connection to the electrical grid increases substantially with distance from the connection point, the maximum viable distance from the site to the point of electrical connection to the grid has been found to be no more than 500m from the Leeming Bar substation.

Recommending the scheme be approved, planning officers concluded the harmful impacts of the development would be sufficiently offset by the public and environmental benefits of the generation of renewable electricity.

Some of the scheme’s supporters have underlined the importance of energy security following the invasion of Ukraine and increasingly uncertain gas supplies.

However, objectors have highlighted how while 65 per cent of land in Hambleton is classed as good to moderate quality at grade 3, the majority of the proposed site is classed very good quality or grade 2.

Alongside residents’ views in some of the 123 letters of objection, Natural England has responded to the proposal saying the development would be likely to lead to a reduction in agricultural productivity.

It stated: “Your authority should therefore consider whether this is an effective use of land in line with planning practice guidance which encourages the siting of large scale solar farms on previously developed and non-agricultural land.”