A PROPOSAL to cover a swathe of high-grade agricultural land with solar panels to generate sufficient green energy to power 8,660 homes has attracted a wave of opposition, despite the firm behind the scheme radically reducing the size of the venture.

The last week has seen more than 100 objections lodged to Harmony Energy’s planned solar farm beside the former Second World War prisoner of war site at Eden Camp, Old Malton, with some branding the potential loss of best and most versatile graded farmland as 'ludicrous' and even 'monstrous'.

The objections come weeks after the firm submitted documents to Ryedale District Council to justify its proposal, which has been cut from covering 130 hectares (the original proposal triggered Thirsk and Malton MP to raise the issue with a government minister in 2021) to almost 53 hectares.

They also come ahead of an event being staged by Harmony Energy, from 3pm to 7pm on Monday, February 20, at The Talbot Malton Hotel, Yorkersgate, to highlight revisions to the scheme.

The firm says the 30.4MW scheme, on land owned by the Fitzwilliam Trust Corporation, would bring about substantial environmental, social and economic benefits, including carbon dioxide savings amounting to more than 12,500 tonnes a year and supply the average annual electricity needs for 38 per cent of households in Ryedale district.

Alongside proposed ecological enhancements, which the firm claims would result in a biodiversity net gain of 105 per cent, the firm has highlighted that only 56 per cent of the proposed site is graded best and most versatile (BMV) farmland.

The application states the proposed development cannot be located elsewhere – as for large-scale solar farms to connect to the national grid, there must be a technically and financially viable connection available – with grid capacity with Northern Powergrid having been secured and a nearby substation being the only suitable local one.

The proposal follows councils elsewhere in North Yorkshire, such as Richmondshire, being roundly condemned by some for giving consent to solar farms on top-quality farmland, amid fears energy insecurity was being substituted for food insecurity.

Despite the revised proposal, objectors have voiced fury over 'using wildlife rich and productive farmland to install solar panels', saying there is an abundance of brownfield sites and roofs of buildings where solar panels could be installed.

One objector stated: “British farming needs supporting and to allow solar panels be installed on good-quality land that is used for food production is ludicrous.”

In an objection, Richard Gueterbock, a former Government adviser, who edited the 2022 Royal Agriculture Society of England Farm of the Future Report, said given the current concerns about food and energy security, the country “cannot afford to remove more productive farmland away from arable production”.

Another objector, Jan Thornton, a York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership Board member and vice chair of Grow Yorkshire, added it would inappropriate if “productive farmland should be surrendered to energy use in this case”.