Written evidence submitted by Mallard Pass Action Group (FS0058)


Call for evidence from EFRA Committee on Food Security




We welcome the opportunity to submit evidence to this Committee’s inquiry into food



This submission represents the views of the Mallard Pass Action Group, formed in

December 2021 after a proposal to site a 2,500 acre Solar Farm was announced by Mallard Pass Solar Farm Ltd in November 2021. The site is located on the border of South

Lincolnshire and Rutland and the entire solar farm will be located on agricultural land with an ALC soil classification of Grade 2, Grade 3a and Grade 3b with 59% of the land within the scheme being classed as Best & Most Versatile (BMV). Initially the group was formed to

represent the interests of local communities directly affected by the proposed site

(8 villages). But over the last 8 months interest and concern has significantly increased and the group now represents people from over 20 villages, as well as the historic market town of Stamford.


The group is not opposed to Solar energy but believe solar panels should be placed on

commercial and residential roof tops and brownfield land not on productive farmland where they will significantly impact rural landscapes, food production and have a potential negative impact on the environment.


As the interest of the group focuses on the specific implications around Land Use we restrict our response to this inquiry to question 6: How could the Government’s proposed land use strategy for England improve food security? What balance should be stuck between land use for food production and other goals – such as environmental benefit?


Land Use

Agricultural land is a major asset of the nation and a finite resource which has been in steady decline for many years with ever competing demands on land for food production, housing, infrastructure, renewable energy, environmental schemes & tree planting.


Good farmland is being lost every day and it seems that the planning system does not

adequately protect it.


The CPRE report published in the summer set out the position very clearly: since 2010, we have lost thousands of hectares of our finest agricultural land often to inappropriate

development which potentially impacts our natural environment, the landscape and the local communities close to where they are sited.


There is currently no over-arching Land Use Strategy which effectively balances the many and competing demands on land and which if introduced would enable more joined up

government policy and decision making.


The second part of your question is key – there must be a balance between food, energy production and environmental benefit.


In addition to an over-arching land strategy, it is imperative that there is a national strategy that gives food production the importance it deserves and protects our best and most

versatile land (BMV). Anecdotal evidence emerging from this year’s cereal harvest indicates that crops grown on land classed as ALC 3b have performed well and in some cases better than ALC grade 2 & 3a despite the dry hot weather suggesting that it maybe more resilient as our climate continues to change. In such an unpredictable global environment this begs the question whether ALC grade 3b should also be considered as BMV and be better protected in order to ensure long term food security.


The pressure on costs of inputs such as fertilisers will potentially reduced yields making the retention of farmland even more important.  Likewise any move towards more regenerative farming will have a similar impact. 


Solar Parks are classified as a “temporary” change of use of land as it is claimed the land will revert to farmland after in region of forty years.  This time period would not usually be considered temporary and it raises the question – will it revert and can it be successfully bought back into food production.


It is very therefore welcome that DEFRA will publish a Land Use Strategy in 2023.

Our recommendations

The appointment of a new Minister of Sustainable Land Use (to include food security) with specific responsibility to ensure ongoing delivery of the land use framework and essential coordination of government departments.

We must value our best farmland, consider including ALC grade 3b as BMV and there should be a ban on non-food uses on best and most versatile land (although

regenerative/sustainable farming should be encouraged and supported)


Non-food uses must be supported by government in the right place, such solar incentives for rooftops, particularly warehouse roofs and car parks; incentives for higher-density brownfield housing rather than low-density, car-dependent urban sprawl on best



Consider the option of limiting the need for solar on agricultural land by increasing off-shore wind power.  The pressure on the use of greenfield land for solar is simply because the

government has put, what could be considered, an arbitrary target for solar power.


Clearly define what is considered a temporary change in land use and what is a permanent change in planning terms.


Updates to the National Planning Policy Framework must reflect this and must include

references to the land use strategy when published.


Land use should be included in the next DEFRA Food Security report so that the amount of land being lost from food production is first recognised and then prevented.

Stakeholder engagement. Community groups, parish councils, neighbourhood planning groups and local stakeholders must be included in local decision-making.



Helen Woolley (BSc Hons)

On behalf of Mallard Pass Action Group

30 September 2022