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General Election 2024: What do Newark candidates think of solar farms and tackling climate change

Ahead of the upcoming general election, the Advertiser asked readers to share questions they would like answering by candidates vying to become their next MP.

Among the topics were solar farms, and the wider issue of climate change.

Newark candidates were asked: “There are a lot of solar farm applications for agricultural land across this area and beyond. What should be done about these - and tackling climate change in general?”

Here are their responses, in alphabetical order:

Saj Ahmad — Labour

Saj Ahmad, Labour candidate for Newark
Saj Ahmad, Labour candidate for Newark

“Climate change is a real and already present threat. Renewable energy not only reduces carbon emissions, it gives us energy independence and cuts our bills. That’s why clean energy is a key Labour goal.

“But we don’t want to see swathes of productive farmland taken out of action. Labour will introduce a land-use framework in England to ensure the correct balance between food and energy production.

“We will invite communities to come forward with projects, make sure all are subject to appropriate planning scrutiny and work with local leaders to ensure local people benefit directly from this energy production.

“I recently declined the offer of a large donation from the solar company behind the planned local development.

“I want to be an honest MP with demonstrable integrity, who is committed to tackling climate change, through carefully regulated green energy schemes, that have community consent.”

Lyn Galbraith — Independent

Lyn Galbraith, Independent candidate for Newark
Lyn Galbraith, Independent candidate for Newark

“I will lobby against applications and plans for industrial sized solar farms, such as the One Earth Solar Farm. They are bad for the local area, affect animals and livestock whilst reducing space for food production.

“They are also inefficient given our lack of sunshine! The leases are around 40yrs limiting the ability of surrounding farms to expand. If these farms need to expand to remain viable and can’t, many will cease.

“Losing valuable agricultural land is bad for both the local and national food supply chain.

“One excellent idea, suggested in the Newark Advertiser, was to place solar panels on all newly built industrial estate buildings.

“Further, ensuring that all new homes are built with solar panels and battery storage will reduce demand from the grid whilst also reducing energy bills.

“Overall, I feel more independent research and modelling is required regarding how best to tackle climate change.”

Robert Jenrick — Conservative

Robert Jenrick, Conservative candidate for Newark
Robert Jenrick, Conservative candidate for Newark

“I have been crystal clear about my opposition to the large-scale solar farm applications across our constituency and the beautiful Nottinghamshire countryside.

“I am concerned by the number of exceptionally and unreasonably large solar farm proposals. We need to achieve net zero pragmatically and sensibly, not in a way that destroys landscapes and alienates communities.

“I have worked tirelessly to oppose these large applications, meeting with developers to relay public opposition, discussing the issue with government ministers, and lobbying for protective measures against unsuitable applications.

“I have spoken at parliamentary debates and ensured our concerns gain visibility in local and national media.

“With the upcoming election, it is crucial to have an experienced MP like myself who will continue to oppose these detrimental plans and protect our countryside.

“Labours Shadow Energy Secretary Ed Miliband would wave the applicants through and their *candidate in Newark was even offered money by proponents*.”

*It has been publicly stated by Ms Ahmad that she has turned down any financial offers from solar developers and would continue to do so.

Robert Palmer — Reform UK

Reform UK candidates for Newark constituency, Robert Hall-Palmer.
Reform UK candidates for Newark constituency, Robert Hall-Palmer.

“Reform is committed to ending all Net Zero subsidies.

“The party line is that it is crippling our economy and our sacrifices make no difference in the global increases in emissions.

“I take a different approach on this matter; I question the science behind Net Zero.

“In 1800 the English came out with the Fossil Fuel theory, in 1807 Dmitri Mendeleev the father of the Periodic table said the following: ‘The fossil fuel theory has to be wrong, if it were right the oil fields would be in random patches, they are not. They are in gigantic arcs and lines and therefore must be connected to gigantic subterranean structures’.

“This remains true to this day, and you can now all easily search maps of the oil fields and see for yourselves.

“My point being we do not even have a global consensus on the origins of hydrocarbons.”

David Watts — Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat candidate for Newark, David Watts.
Liberal Democrat candidate for Newark, David Watts.

“Tackling climate change is absolutely vital for me. I am the editor of the journal Challenge, which is the journal of the Green Liberal Democrats. I am a firm supporter of solar power.

“Unfortunately these applications are a classic example of doing the right thing the wrong way, where communities will be swamped by the amounts of panels around them.

“The environmental harm these farms will cause is also very significant. It is what you get with unrestrained free market economics.

“We should instead ensure that all new houses are built with solar panels and also look at putting them over car parks and the like.

“Governments need to be ambitious in tackling climate change because the climate won’t wait for us to be timid.”

All nine Newark candidates were invited to contribute their answers, Michael Ackroyd (Green), Matthew Darrington (English Democrats), and Collan Siddique (Workers Party of Britain), did not provide a response.

The Independent Adrian Amer said he was unable to comment due to sitting on the planning committee of Newark and Sherwood District Council in his role as a councillor.

The UK General Election is scheduled to take place on July 4.

The candidates confirmed for the Newark constituency are (listed alphabetically):

• Michael Ackroyd - Green Party

• Saj Ahmad - Labour

• Adrian Amer - Independent

• Matthew Darrington - English Democrats

• Lyn Galbraith - Independent

• Robert Jenrick - Conservative

• Robert Palmer - Reform UK

• Collan Siddique - Workers Party of Britain

• David Watts - Liberal Democrats

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