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  • Writer's pictureWiltshire Wildlife

Solar, agriculture and the Tory leadership race

I note that Tory leadership hopeful Liz Truss recently paid a visit to Devizes in attempt to woo local Tory members ahead of the final leadership vote. Whilst many have cast their votes I can’t imagine she’ll enjoy tremendous success in this beautiful part of the UK. Amid a raging energy crisis and with the worsening climate emergency, Truss’ comments about prioritising farming over solar, and ‘exploiting all the gas in the North Sea’ will fall somewhat wide of the mark with the majority of party members who have been shown to support provision of solar power. Over 80% of our county is rural and agriculture is a core essential industry but Truss, an urbanite, fails to understand that renewables and farming can and do work hand in glove.

A recent YouGov survey showed almost three quarters of Tory members were pro-solar, including supporting ground mounted solar farms, and 71% supported new onshore and offshore wind energy. As chair of Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy, I know first-hand that the people of Wiltshire are largely in favour of well-planned, considerate renewable developments and they won’t be impressed by Truss’ overstated remarks about their impact on food production.

If she had done her research, she’d know solar farms are rarely situated on prime arable land and are often co-located with livestock grazing. They also utilise just a fraction of the space taken up by golf courses and the like, but there has been little mention of ‘changing the rules’ to curb their impact, I note. At a time when renewables and other clean energy initiatives promise to drastically reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, Truss would prefer to invest in new projects which will leave the people of Wiltshire facing eye watering energy bills this winter and leave us all exposed to volatile gas prices for years to come.

If she wants to win the hearts and minds of her own party members in this county at least, I’d suggest she give this dangerous strategy a serious rethink, and fast.

Julian Barlow

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