RYEDALE'S MP has expressed his concern over the scale and location of a proposed solar panel scheme near Old Malton.

Kevin Hollinrake MP for Thirsk and Malton also said such schemes should not be located on the most versatile land.

Energy developer Harmony Energy has put forward the proposals for landowner, the Fitzwilliam Trust, for the scheme, saying it will bring environmental and economic benefits to the local area including business rates for Ryedale District Council (RDC) estimated to be in excess of £100k per annum.

However, a campaign has been set up- Save Old Malton Countryside - by farmers Robert and Emma Sturdy, who have said they will lose 130 acres of farmland to the solar panels, and that they will also impact on an area of outstanding beauty and the local habitat.

Mr Hollinrake said: “I am very concerned about this proposal as planning policy is very clear that large scale solar should not be located on best and most versatile land. I have also raised my very serious concerns with ministers about the use of non-agricultural development provisions in the context of tenanted farms and that this is urgently in need of reform.

"These provisions were intended for small scale development, whereas using these for solar completely devastates the economic basis of a farm and could drive thousands of tenant farmers off their farms across the country.”

Rob and Emma Sturdy, said: "Once again The Fitzwilliam Trust show a complete failure to understand their responsibility as a landowner and the issues at the heart of this proposal. They continue to show a total disregard for the people of Malton and importantly for their longstanding farming tenants.

"They talk about the statutory arrangement to compensate us, this is around £46k for lost income from the farm over the next 60 years-an average of £760 a year. Let us also remember the so called £100k in business tax they say will feedback to Ryedale is a little tenuous to say the least, given the future of RDC is in the balance. We remain fully supportive of renewable energy but there must be a balance between our food production and managing climate change, the hi-jacking of top quality agricultural land in this rural environment cannot be justified."