Farmer denounces being kicked off solar farm land

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A local sharecropper has spoken out after being advised to leave the land on which he has farmed for nearly 15 years to make way for a solar farm.

Andrew Lake, 58, is the sharecropper at High Barn Farm in Barkham Farm, Wokingham.

Last September, landowner Wokingham Borough Council asked him to move out of farmland, which wants to build a 72,000-panel solar farm there.

Mr. Lake took a dim view of the plan, warning that he will have to sell his herd of hundreds of cows and that the land will be lost forever once the solar farm runs out.

READ MORE: Wokingham Borough Council unveils plans for massive new solar farm

He is currently looking for a new farm, but said, “It’s very difficult right now to be completely honest. Certainly, if it goes through [plans are approved] I’ll have to move. At present due to covid and Brexit, ownership is scarce.

“I don’t know how they think food will come to feed a growing population.

“If you keep taking farmland out of production, where are people going to feed themselves?

“What it would do is get rid of productive farmland, which goes against government guidelines.”

He went on to echo the Liberal Democrats’ arguments that the best policy would be to add solar panels to new construction in the borough.

Mr. Lake argued that leaving the earth could have dire consequences for his cow herd, which consists of 360 to 380 animals.

“I have cultivated the land for 12 to 14 years. If I can’t find it somewhere, I will have to sell them for breeding or have them slaughtered on the meat line.

“Due to the growing population and the suburban belt, this land will be brick and mortar for the next 10 years. Our hands are forced.

Andrew Lake has 360 to 380 cows at High Barn Farm. He will have to move or else he will have to sell or slaughter his cattle. Credit: Andrew Lake

He explained that it was not only his livelihood that was at stake, he also had to consider the future of his 26-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter.

Mr Lake said: “Both want to get into the farming industry and I don’t know what to do about it.”

Its most damning claim is that farmland will be lost forever once the solar farm completes its life cycle.

He said: “Once these solar parks have finished their course, they will be built after 20 years.

“Once he’s gone he’s gone, he’ll never come back to farmland.

“These solar farms have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years and the panels themselves come from China. It is not very efficient.

He added, “It will be a brownfield site once the solar farm’s life cycle is over. Dismantling is going to be very expensive.

“Once it’s gone, that will be all, there will be no turning back.”

Bracknell News: Andrew Lake says he has two children, aged 26 and 21, who are interested in getting into farming.  Credit: Andrew LakeAndrew Lake says he has two children, aged 26 and 21, who want to get into farming. Credit: Andrew Lake

Wokingham Borough Council responded to Mr. Lake’s multiple allegations.

Regarding the financial impact of the program, a spokesperson admitted that a one-off amount estimated at £ 21million would need to be spent. However, he stressed that this included planting 15,000 trees and forming a “greenway” which the council said would better connect Finchampstead and Arborfield to the wider area.

Responding to Mr. Lake’s claim that the solar panels are coming from China, the spokesperson replied that there was no decision yet on the origin of the panels, although he admitted that panels were ‘unlikely’ to be built in the UK due to a lack of producers.

The spokesperson said any carbon used to import the panels would be offset by the production of renewable energy.

READ MORE: Wokingham Tories defend massive Barkham solar farm project

The council is also unable to help Lake find a new farm in the borough, but said it will work to help in any way it can.

Councilor Gregor Murray, Executive Member for Carbon Emissions, said: “In 2020, Council adopted the Climate Emergency Action Plan and committed to making the Borough of Wokingham net carbon zero d ‘by 2030. This is not something we have taken lightly and, in order to achieve it, difficult decisions. are going to have to be done.

“The decision to use this land to produce renewable green energy, rather than as farmland, is just such a decision. Solar farms are a critical part of the councils’ plans to not only reduce local carbon emissions, but to create access to renewable energy sources in the region. We continue to work with the tenant to support them in all possible changes.

“In addition to providing renewable energy, farms are also a good investment for local residents, as the energy produced can be sold, not only by covering the costs of their installation, but by generating a profit that will help fund services for residents and other green projects across the area.

“Despite fears that the creation of the solar farm will turn the site into brownfield land, this is simply not the case. The panels, mounted on poles in the ground, cause minimal disturbance and, after 25 years, can be removed and the land immediately returned to agriculture.


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