St. Ippolyts Solar Farm

I was recently asked if I supported wind and solar farms.

The most accurate answer is: it depends.

What I mean is: I strongly support any strategy that seeks to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and secures our energy supply.

It does not follow from this that I support every individual wind and solar farm application.

Given the choice, I would much prefer that solar panels are built on top of buildings – whether residential, industrial or community – than on prime agricultural land – especially when we also need to build 12,500 homes in North Hertfordshire.

That said, I approach the St. Ippolyts Solar Farm as someone who attended nuclear new build consultations in West Cumbria. The blight caused by a solar farm pales into insignificance when compared with the blight caused by a nuclear power station. But what I also learnt during my years in Cumbria was that magnificent countryside comes at a terrible cost: it limits economic development. As I often said, the deepest scars on the West Cumbrian landscape are those caused by multiple deprivation. And those scars run deep – as deep, in some cases as the poorest wards in Tower Hamlets.

Much as I have a great deal sympathy for those whose homes would be blighted by the proposed solar farm, I have a great deal more sympathy for those families whose lives are blighted by fuel poverty – and also Climate Change.

And having recently visited the exhibition for the St. Ippolyts Solar Farm, I think local residents understand that. And all credit to the energy company for their efforts in attempting to take the community with them. Offers of free/reduced priced solar panels are not to be sniffed at – especially in an age of escalating electricity prices. They have the potential to offer homeowners much reduced electricity bills for many years to come. Speaking personally, I’d give my right arm for that sort of offer. So is it blight or opportunity?