Heightened global geopolitical instability has led the UK Government strengthen food security as part of the UK’s national resilience.

A key plank of the strategy is protecting ‘Best and Most Versatile’ (BMV) land, ensuring large solar projects avoid this higher quality land where possible.

Instead, they should be developed on brownfield land, contaminated land, industrial land, and lower quality agricultural land so as not to compromise the UK’s food security.

Energy security secretary, Claire Coutinho told Parliament: “rising threats around the world mean we must have a renewed emphasis on our security. That means protecting our food security whilst also delivering the cheap energy we need.

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“We are taking further steps today to make sure we can get that balance right. I want to see more solar on rooftops and where that’s not possible, for agricultural land to be protected; and for the cumulative impact on local villages to be considered where they are facing a high number of solar farm applications.

“We will make sure we reach our solar targets in a sensible way that delivers clean, cheaper energy but does not compromise our food security.”

Agricultural Land Classification Soil Surveys are currently carried out by soil consultants on behalf of developers, although the format of these can vary across projects and there isn’t a specific accredited body in place to oversee this process.

To ensure there is greater consistency and certain standards are always met in these surveys, the UK Government is exploring options to introduce an independent certification scheme. This should ensure that data is recorded and presented in a more consistent and objective way, helping government more closely monitor how agricultural land is being classified.

The government says it has also made it cheaper for solar panels to be installed on homes and charitable buildings, which currently benefit from a zero rate of VAT until March 2027.

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Westminster adds that solar remains a British success story with around 16GW deployed across the UK – 99% of which was installed since 2010. As of December 2023, over 1.2 million homes have solar PV installed. According to government data, there were more than 160,000 domestic installations in 2023, the most in a calendar year since 2015.

North of the border, Holyrood says that development on high-quality agriculture land will also not be supported.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is vital that we strike a balance between improving our nation’s food security and our efforts to bolster clean energy production in Scotland.

“National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) policy 5 sets out that development on prime agricultural land will not be supported except in a limited range of circumstances. The layout and design of these proposals must minimise the amount of protected land that is required.

“The Scottish Government created a new Food Security Unit in the spring of last year. Planning officials will work with the Food Security Unit to inform our approach to NPF4 monitoring.”