Climate change is happening! The cause is carbon emissions from burning oil, coal and gas. Government and EU legislation set legally binding targets to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. The forthcoming Climate Summit in Paris is likely to set targets for further reductions in carbon emissions.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes the impact of climate change on human and natural systems. Currently a major source of carbon emissions is from the provision of energy so to achieve Government targets alternative sources of energy are being planned across South Central Bedfordshire.

On examining Central Bedfordshire Council’s planning database it is clear the Council prefers Solar Energy installations. A recent Council Development Management Committee approved three Solar Farms one of them will affect the Parishes of Toddington and Chalton. We wholeheartedly support alternative sources of energy however residents have reported to us their concerns about the location of Solar Farms and whether they will be of direct benefit to the communities they are located in.

Central Bedfordshire Council’s Solar Energy policy does nothing to encourage the location of Solar Farms at less visually intrusive locations and where there is minimal loss of high grade agricultural land. Planning permission has been given for a Solar Farm in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The Westoning Solar Farm is on high grade agricultural land and therefore diminishes the prospect of using this land for food production for the foreseeable future. A plan for a Solar Farm at Pulloxhill within the Chilterns AONB, visible from the Pulloxhill ridge and Sharpenhoe Clappers was successfully resisted by the surrounding community with the support of Bedfordshire Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Chiltern Society.

Mary and Michael would like to see current policy changed to favour locating Solar Energy installations on the roofs of warehouses, public buildings, car parks, and shopping centres. The Government’s Solar Energy Strategy quantified part of this potential estimating there are currently 250,000 hectares of south-facing commercial roofs in the UK. The Council’s policy concerning Solar Energy and the design of buildings are examples of where change is needed to favour the use of roofs for Solar Energy installations. Currently distribution of money to communities arising from Section 106 agreements with Solar Energy installers is too tightly controlled. This prevents communities from directly receiving this money. As well there are currently no regulations that allow communities to benefit directly from the power generated by Solar Farms. Michael and Mary would like to see controls loosened and community buildings powered by the energy generated by Solar Farms.