Farming dreams are dashed by solar plan

Three generations of tenant farmers could be affected if plans to put solar panels on their land go ahead: From left ' John Harris and wife Denise, son Ross with Toni and their children Aimee (two) and Carley (five weeks).
Three generations of tenant farmers could be affected if plans to put solar panels on their land go ahead: From left ' John Harris and wife Denise, son Ross with Toni and their children Aimee (two) and Carley (five weeks).

DREAMS of inheriting a farm near Crowland have been dashed by council proposals to put solar panels on the land.

Ross Harris has ploughed more than £12,000 into renovating a tenant farmer’s bungalow at Lodge Farm in Black Drove, Thorney, for himself, wife Toni and daughters Carley (27 months) and five-week-old Aimee.

Mr Harris (37) said: “I was planning for our future. What am I supposed to do now – just go?

“We’ve heard nothing. All we’ve got is a letter saying ‘we want your farm’.”

Last week the Free Press reported how tenant farmers in the Crowland area had formed the Newborough Landscape Protection Group to fight proposals by Peterborough City Council to put solar panels and windfarms on 3,000 acres of prime agricultural land.

A spokesman for the council said that although feasibility studies were taking place, the proposals were at very early stages, but it owned the land and had to look at ways of meeting renewable energy targets and being able to afford to deliver essential services to 74,000 households.

John Harris, Ross’ father, has held the tenancy at Lodge Farm since 1976 and farms 250 acres of wheat, oil seed rape and sugarbeat, as well as renting out a field for potatoes.

He said: “I started at the age of 23 with 69 acres. My son got involved four years ago when the council offered me 76 acres.

“If the solar panels plan goes ahead, the council will take 150 acres, which would make the farm not viable.

“There’s a world food shortage. It doesn’t make sense that the council wants to cover prime agricultural land with solar panels.”

Ross said: “When I agreed to take on the 76 acres in partnership with my father, the council encouraged it because they were struggling to find young people to take on the farms.

“I was 32, not married and still living with my parents because I loved being on the farm.

“There was 11 years left on my father’s tenancy and it seemed like the perfect answer.

“I don’t understand why they want to do this on top grade farmland. It’s madness.”