A spokesperson for Harmony said:
“We have listened to feedback and revised our plans for Old Malton by reducing the amount of high grade land included within the proposed development site and reducing the solar farm size by 35%. The proposed development only covers fields which are intensively farmed. Overall 41% of the revised site is grade 3b land or lower (the fourth lowest grade of land after 1,2 and 3a). Land grading naturally fluctuates within individual fields and only 8% of land included in the plans is classed as grade 1 land ‘top grade’ and each field contains grade 3b.
“Renewable energy is critical to ensure the future security of the UK’s energy supply, whilst helping to meet global targets to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change. Solar energy is a natural and inexhaustible source of clean renewable energy with a low environmental impact. However, as we have always stated, it is not as easy as just installing it on brownfield sites (which is often earmarked as high value land for housing) or rooftops in significant quantities. Unsubsidised developments like the one we are proposing help reduce energy bills, at a time when energy bills have increased dramatically primarily due to increasing fossil fuel costs.
“In total, this development would provide energy to power the equivalent of more than 11,000 homes and takes up less than 0.01% of the arable land in Yorkshire. Whilst we encourage roof top solar developments, creating the same amount of power would mean more than half the houses in the whole of Ryedale installing solar panels. Many people cannot afford to do so and even if it was financially viable, this would take many years to happen when we need lower energy prices and greater energy security now.
“This site is not subject to any national or local planning designations or protections which would preclude this type of development and, crucially, it is connecting directly into the neighbouring Malton bulk supply substation, which is vital to ensure the economics stack up without any subsidies from the tax payer. Capacity for connecting large scale solar onto the UK grid is now severely constrained.
“We are finalising our proposal and will be submitting a planning application shortly. The development will significant enhance biodiversity of the existing intensively farmed land. This would be achieved through planting extensive woodland belts, enhancing hedgerows, planting wildflower meadows running through the middle of the development and the installation of numerous bird and bat boxes. Furthermore, the development would provide green energy for the local electricity network at no cost to the taxpayer, allow the soil to regenerate and improve its quality and contribute substantial business rates to the Council. In addition, we are providing a community benefit fund of £10,000 per annum for local community based projects.
“As disclosed in the last public consultation, should planning be successful vacant possession of the required land will be required and the tenants have been offered an attractive annual income for up to 40 years.
“We are proud to be a local Yorkshire energy firm, delivering local renewable energy, providing local benefits and supporting local high-skilled jobs. If this scheme gets the go ahead, it will support our ambitions to grow, create further employment and assist the UK’s net zero and energy security ambitions.”