Malton farming family fight to save their land from solar panel developers

An Old Malton farming family who are fighting to save their land from being swamped with solar panels have won support from councillors.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 1:45 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd July 2021, 1:46 pm

The plan by Harmony Energy is to install 92,500 panels on 130 acres of land at Eden Farm, which is owned by the Fitzwilliam Trust Corporation.

In an impassioned plea to Malton Town Council for support against the plan, Robert Sturdy said his family had farmed the land for 70 years under a three-generation tenancy agreement with the trust, of which he is the second generation.

“I have worked all my life at Eden Farm and we have invested heavily in drainage schemes to improve the land, planted trees and hedgerows as well as building a new grain store.

The family's farm could be more than halved if plans proceed. (Photo: Getty/Andreas Rentz)

"What right have these people got to destroy our business?” said Mr Sturdy, who lives at the farm with his wife Emma and their two children.

The farm had some of the best agricultural land in Ryedale, he added.

If the scheme goes ahead, said Mr Sturdy, the family’s income from the farm would be reduced by 80 per cent because the acreage would be halved.

“I would be left earning £5 an hour. We have nurtured this landscape over the years but when I raised this with the trust’s agents I was told I would have to get alternative employment.

"They have no right to destroy our livelihood,” said Mr Sturdy, to applause from the public gallery of the meeting held at the Malton Methodist Church.

Cllr Joan Lawrence told the meeting: “We have got to produce as much food as we can. The family need to have alternative land to farm,” while Cllr Lindsey Burr said: “This application is far too big. It will have a detrimental impact on many people in Ryedale."

Other councillors said the acres of panels would prevent wildlife such as deer and hares moving around.

Cllr Martin Dales said: “It is obscene to take away a family’s livelihood.” He successful moved that the council pursue the issue with Fitzwilliam Trust Corporation expressing the concerns.

Peter Kavanagh, Chief Executive Officer for Harmony Energy, said the venture, which would not receive public subsidy, would contribute £100,000 annually in business rates to Ryedale District Council. ”This solar energy scheme will be a big benefit financially and environmentally," he said.

The public consultation on the plan came to an end this week and Ryedale Council is expected to make a decision on the scheme later this year.