Campaigners against a solar farm project in Angus say the impact of renewables on food production is a growing concern at a time of empty supermarket shelves.

The SPARE Suttieside campaign group spoke out after plans were lodged for a 55 ha solar farm outside Forfar.

The site straddles two farms including eight field parcels of lower grade 3.2 agricultural land and will have the output capacity to power around 8,000 homes.

However, Susan Oliphant of SPARE Suttieside highlighted the large number of solar array planning applications with Angus Council alone.

She said: “If you count up the those that have been passed, those that have been constructed, those in full application and that are in pre-screening, we’re looking at 1,200 hectares and the north east of Scotland is awash with applications.”

“When people have seen food shortages this year through Ukraine and energy prices, it seems very difficult to balance food production and energy production from the same land.

“At first, there was concern at the visual impact of the arrays, but there was also anger that so much agricultural land was being taken away from food production.

“I can understand why farmers are doing it, but I wonder if the Scottish Government could maybe encourage farmers to put solar arrays on agricultural buildings and feed the excess into the grid.”

The activists also compare the need for a large amount of land for a renewable energy system they describe as inefficient.

Richard Murray, director of Murray planning associates who are acting on behalf of the application pointed to the need for diversification to achieve financial viability.

He said: “Farmers are being forced to diversify due to escalating costs, resulting in traditional farming becoming unprofitable.

“The proposed solar farm offers an opportunity for the host farms to diversify and will provide a steady and secure income to allow them to return back to profitability.

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“Indeed, the proposed site was specifically selected as it is split over two farms which ensures that only a small proportion of each of the farmer's land holding is used for solar.

“Even with the solar farm built, both farmers will continue to work the majority of their land with the reliable income received from the solar farm allowing them to stay profitable.”

Mr Murray added that following consultation, the number of proposed panels had been reduced and additional screening introduced to reduce the potential visual impact.

The arrays, which are a maximum height of 2.6m are a tracker design which slowly tilt throughout the day to follow the path of the sun and lower in height during this process to no higher than 1.8m tall.

Additional infrastructure on the site includes security fencing access tracks CCTV and container-held substations and transformers.

The applicants say site mitigation will provide a 58.17% increase in Habitat units and a “hugely significant” 15768.89% increase in Hedgerow units from baseline conditions and pointed to recent research from Lancaster University which offered evidence that solar farms can enhance biodiversity on farmland.