The research found that four projects were refused planning permission during 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 combined.
The analysis follows Conservative leadership contender Liz Truss’ plan to crack down on solar farms, preferring instead to see land used for farming, a view echoed by Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor and leadership rival to Truss.
Turley’s analysis found that the solar farms that were refused planning permission would have had a combined capacity of 748MW.
Despite the misgivings of Truss and Sunak, solar technology is listed as a key contributor to renewable power generation in the government’s British Energy Security Strategy, released in April 2022.
The strategy set out ambitions of generating 70GW of energy from solar technology by 2035, promising also to consult on amending planning rules to strengthen policy in favour of development on non-protected land, as well as supporting solar that is co-located with other functions such as agriculture and established energy infrastructure.
In a statement, Emma Kelly, associate director at planning and development consultancy Turley, said: “Solar should be a key contributor to the energy market, especially as we look to diversify our renewable energy products to ensure maintenance of supply.
“The significant uplift in planning permission refusal for solar farms goes entirely against the proposals laid out in the government’s British Energy Security Strategy. Solar power currently contributes 14GW of energy at present, so we have some way to go before reaching the 70GW target.”
Kelly continued: “Biodiversity is certainly a factor we need to consider with solar farms whilst the ongoing rise of the cost of energy has shown just how important renewable energy generation is for the future of the UK. A growing trend of refusing planning permission for renewable energy projects that are designed to support energy security is a huge step backwards on our road to Net Zero.”
The South West and eastern England had the highest number of refusals for planning permission, with four projects turned down each. Wales, the West Midlands and Scotland had three refusals each, while the East Midlands, North East and South East each had two planning applications turned down.
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