Pro-nuclear MP sparks row following attack on solar power projects
Dale Spridgeon, local democracy reporter
An MP’s claims that a mega 1200-acre solar farm on Anglesey could do it “harm” have sparked a war of words with anti-nuclear campaigners.
Speaking in a parliamentary debate over the proposals by Lightsource BP, Ynys Môn MP Virginia Crosbie said solar energy risked “sacrificing vast areas of agricultural land and the UK’s food security”.
However, anti-nuclear campaigners said Mrs Crosbie, who champions nuclear energy on the island, should “smell the coffee”, and they argued that nuclear power provided a “much greater threat to human life”.
Lightsource BP is working on a proposal for a solar farm on land in the north east of the island, and has been presenting early-stage plans to the community.
Mrs Crosbie told MPs that the area’s residents were under threat from a “slew of solar proposals”.
She said a solar scheme potentially covering an area of more than 900 football pitches would “only” generate enough power for 133,000 homes, adding that a nuclear power station would power six million with a “fraction of the footprint”.
“Larger applications are considered by the Welsh Government, six hours away in Cardiff,” she said, claiming that local communities were “concerned” over large-scale development decisions being taken away from them.
“I would like to stress that I am not anti-solar or anti-renewables and I am not anti the environment [but] the subject of planning for solar farms is incredibly important to rural communities.
“I represent communities particularly concerned about the threat of mega solar farms on our landscape, our culture and our heritage, in particular a proposal by Lightsource BP.
“We must implement solar with extreme caution. For developers, it is an attractive solution, as land is relatively cheap, solar panels can be imported at low cost, and there is minimal upkeep and maintenance, which means that little local employment is generated.
“That must be balanced against the energy generation capacity.
“There is another, possibly more important, consideration. Ynys Môn was known historically as Môn Mam Cymru — Anglesey, mother of Wales—because our fertile agricultural land fed the Welsh people in times of need.
“We need a strong agricultural community, and it is those great swathes of fertile, historical agricultural land that are particularly attractive to solar farm developers.
“Earlier this year, FarmingUK wrote that the UK is on the verge of food security concerns not seen since World War II, and in 2020 the UK imported 46% of the food we consume.
“I hope that the minister will take on board the risk that, in the rush to achieve net zero, however laudable, we may sacrifice vast areas of agricultural land, and hence our food security, to solar panels, which do not offer the dependable, large-scale solution we need to the energy crisis.”
Responding to her comments, an anti-nuclear spokesperson representing PAWB (People Against Wylfa B) said: “This is a deeply ironic comment coming from a nuclear enthusiast.
“That industry has the capacity to poison the atmosphere for thousands of years and is a real threat to human life.
“In the event of regular leaks from nuclear stations and considering the perilous condition of the nuclear waste facilities at Sellafield, Mrs Crosbie should smell the coffee.
“She should realise that the future of our electricity needs can be answered far more cheaply and quickly through a range of renewable technologies.”
Lightsource BP was contacted for a comment.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.