Ministers are planning to ban solar farms from most of England’s farmland, the Guardian can reveal.
The new environment secretary, Ranil Jayawardena, is understood to oppose solar panels being placed on agricultural land, arguing that it impedes his programme of growth and boosting food production.
To this end, say government sources, he has asked his officials to redefine “best and most versatile” land (BMV), which is earmarked for farming, to include the middling-to-low category 3b.
Land is graded from 1 to 5, and currently BMV includes grades 1 to 3a.
Planning guidance says that development on BMV land should be avoided, although planning authorities may take other considerations into account.
Currently, most solar farms are built on and planned for 3b land, so this move would scupper most new developments of the renewable energy source.
Extending BMV to grade 3b would ban solar from about 41% of the land area of England, or about 58% of agricultural land.
Much of grade 4 and 5 land is in upland areas that are unsuitable for solar developments.