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Welcome to Save Our Somerset Levels

We are a group of local residents and farmers fighting a proposed industrial-scale solar plant development at Pedwell, Somerset

We would welcome your pledge to help with a donation if and when Elgin appeal.  Please click here to find out why, and how to pledge.



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Nythe Road

Existing 40-acre solar plant in solid blue

Red line site boundary encloses 146 acres


Public footpaths shown in green

We need renewable energy as the climate situation becomes increasingly serious. We are now in the situation where drastic changes could and are being made to the countryside we all know and love. In trying to avoid dangerous climate change we need to make sure we do not destroy the very thing we are trying to save” (Local resident Trevor Bailey)

It makes no sense to destroy an environment to protect the environment! 

There could be more work ahead!

Elgin Energy may decide to resubmit or appeal the planning refusal to convert 146 acres of Redlands Farm near Pedwell, Ashcott into a 40MW solar energy generating plant. This is in effect an expansion of the existing 40-acre solar plant on Redlands Farm, constructed in 2015 at Butleigh Drove. When combined, the 186-acre expanse of PV panels will be one of the largest in the Southwest. Approximately 70% of Redlands Farm will be covered by solar panels with the potential of generating around 46.2MW electricity.


Located largely in the old Mendip District, part of the project site also extends into the old Sedgemoor District and straddles Nythe Road. It covers 15 fields of grade 2 and 3a best and most versatile (BMV) farmland comprising fertile peat moorland and hillside pastures. Formerly an emerging organic dairy farm, the dairy herd was sold in 2021, which left the farm committed to producing solar energy as its principal business.

Redlands Farm recently diversified their business with a holiday let lodge. The June 2023 Supporting Statement for their planning application said:


The applicants wish to tap into the ever-growing trend for visitors wanting an active element to their holiday and Redlands Farm is an ideal location for this. They are intending to market The Lodge to guests wishing to explore the natural beauty of the Levels environment and the Polden Hills, including walkers, cyclists and horse riders. The setting of the farm, with excellent views of the open countryside and direct access to the extensive public footpath network provides ample opportunities for this”.


The Lodge overlooks the application site. How does an industrial solar plant sit in these ‘excellent views of the open countryside’?

Not persuaded?  Please read on…


Our campaign is not against green energy initiatives such as wind and solar energy. We would support solar panels on roofs, brownfield sites and previously developed land. Well-screened, small scale and unobtrusive solar panels on poor farmland may be acceptable to local communities following a proper consultation process.


We are against the Nythe Road solar farm expansion not only because it is inappropriate and too big, but also because if approved it will tempt other farmers on The Levels to follow suit. Current planning policy has not yet caught up with the environmental impact and loss of food security brought about by the solar industry. The government’s carte blanche allows agile developers to plough ahead with irresistible offers to farmers to develop huge greenfield sites which damage our countryside and ignore the huge potential of roof-mounted solar.

What price our green energy?


Nobody knows what the true environmental cost of solar energy is, but we do know that solar developers and landowners make a killing. Farmers can earn up to £1,000 per acre every year for 40 years. We don’t know what Redlands Farm will be earning, but it will certainly be millions, a secure and index linked income. And Elgin Energy or their successors will most likely make manyfold more, while we and our children pay for the inevitable harm to wildlife and loss of amenity.

Solar plants on the Somerset Levels cost the earth


  • An intrinsically beautiful landscape character is destroyed.


  • A cherished visual amenity is blighted by an industrial landscape.


  • Loss of best and most versatile (BMV) farmland undermines our food security and increases imports at a high carbon cost. 


  • Wildlife habitat is impacted, and south facing eco systems are permanently shielded from the sun with unknown long-term consequences.


  • Farming communities are torn between traditional production and the attraction of very lucrative industrialisation.

You can stop the industrialisation of the Somerset Levels


  • Oppose new solar developments on the Somerset Levels while supporting solar on rooftops, brownfield sites and developed land.


  • Support national countryside and wildlife custodians like Somerset Wildlife Trust, CPRE, RSPB and Natural England.


  • Urge your MP to update the national planning policy framework (NPPF) to protect best and most versatile (BMV) land for food production.


  • Support farming communities by buying local produce and switching to seasonal food.



We say enough is enough!

Residents and farmers from 4 neighbouring parishes have come together to oppose plans for one of the largest solar developments in the Southwest. If Elgin Energy's expected appeal is allowed it could result in 186 acres of prime farmland being covered with solar panels. Their 146-acre development will expand the existing 40-acre solar farm more than threefold to industrialise almost all of Redlands Farm at Pedwell.


The industrial landscape pictured behind the group is part of the existing 40-acre Redlands solar plant. It illustrates the impact that solar developments have on the landscape character of their setting. Now 9 years old, its promised screen planting is incomplete and there is no evidence of improved biodiversity, a promise typically used by developers in support of solar applications. Although this is not one of Elgin’s projects, it is an example of how futile it is to rely on planning condition enforcement by local authorities.


The curiously named “Nythe Road Solar Farm” development belies the fact that it is located on Redlands Farm, owners of the existing 40-acre solar plant. It is in effect a phase 2 extension of the existing solar farm, albeit with a different solar developer. We believe that, as well as being too big, what is proposed is inefficient in its linear and fragmented layout. It should not be designed that way even on a more suitable site elsewhere.

Money talks!


“We have had no less than 6 solar companies approach us recently to convert 200 acres of our farm into a 50MW solar farm. One of them even offered to pay us £110k up front for simply signing a contract and £900 per acre per annum index linked” (A local farming couple)


If Elgin’s application is successful, it will set a powerful precedent for other farmers on the Somerset Levels to follow suit and turn productive farmland into industrialised energy production.


Redlands Farm was a productive dairy business until 3 years ago when they sold their dairy herd. A local farmer described the farm as ‘the perfect layout for wetlands farming; with summer pastures on the moorland and winter grazing on the hillside when the lower levels are too wet’. In other words, it has been a viable, productive farm for generations. Redlands Farm can now look forward to a secure and extremely generous income from Elgin’s lease for at least 40 years if the application is approved. No wonder farmers are sorely tempted to give up farming and earn more from solar!

Why solar energy?


“Solar generation is known to be hugely inefficient. In terms of the amount of power exported to the grid, solar’s efficiency rating is between 11% and 15% whereas for offshore wind the figure is 50%”(CPRE: The Problem with Solar Farms)

The Government has confirmed that offshore wind will produce more than enough electricity to power every home in the country by 2030, based on current electricity usage (Build Back Greener, October 2020).  If this forecast is realised both the Redlands solar plants will most likely become redundant long before the end of their respective 40-year lease periods. It will make the PV installations obsolete and derelict, with no guarantee that the sites will be reinstated to their original agricultural use.  There is a real danger that they could then be seen as brownfield sites, ripe for alternative non-agricultural use.

Why prime farmland?


“Removing valuable agricultural and bio-diverse habitat from the Somerset Levels benefits no-one, especially when other more suitable brownfield sites could be used” (Local resident Charles Lock)


The proposed solar farm extension will cover grades 2 and 3a farmland, classified as BMV land - ‘best and most versatile’ and according to DEFRA should not be used for energy-based projects. Our farmers are custodians of our countryside, and the sector manages some 72% of UK land.  Farmers support biodiversity conservation, food alleviation, climate change mitigation and a host of other important public good services and delivery. Agriculture underpins rural communities, local infrastructure and tourism. (Trade and Agriculture Commission, March 2021)


“This Government is focused on Energy Security when Food Security is being taken for granted. The population of the UK is 67.2 million productive farmland is crucial should we need to be self-sufficient which has been brought home in light of the Ukrainian conflict. We need to preserve and protect Farmland and place solar projects on roof space and brownfield sites” (Local farmer Samantha Small)

Inappropriate location


“Building a solar farm on the sustainable farmland of the Somerset Levels is like planning a motorway through Westminster Abbey - it's the wrong object in the wrong place” (Local resident Anthony Lipmann)


The National Planning Policy Framework expects local authorities to protect and enhance valued landscapes and sites of biodiversity and recognise the character and beauty of the countryside and the benefits of the best and most versatile farmland in their policies and decisions. (Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, August 2021) We would suggest that the existing Redlands Farm solar development should never have had permission to despoil the valued landscape of King’s Sedgemoor. Repeating the same mistake would be seen as irresponsible vandalism that extends the harm to biodiversity and ignores the character and beauty of a further 146 acres of the Somerset Levels.

Industrial scar


“Solar Farms have their place but not when it semi-industrialises prime agricultural land and tarnishes a landscape renowned for its natural beauty, wildlife habitat and attraction to tourists” (Local resident Andrew Jones)


The loss of high-quality farmland is not the only issue.  Arguably of greater importance is the potential harm that these developments do to the landscape. Fields containing continuous rows of metal and glass bring a dramatic industrial scar to an otherwise rural environment which is then further damaged by perimeter security fencing, floodlighting, CCTV systems and a range of buildings housing all of the inverters and battery storage units.  (CPRE-Essex Policy Statement in Regard to Solar Farms)


Uncertain Future


What guarantee is there that the land will ever revert to agriculture? Who knows.  Can we rely on promises and bonds that the sites will be reinstated as farmland? Probably not. There are no examples of reinstatement because the concept is new and has yet to be tested. We may not witness it at Redlands in our lifetime if solar remains a feasible energy source. Nothing stops the solar operator applying for an extension of planning consent, as demonstrated by the recent extension granted to the existing solar farm: the original permit for 25 years has been extended to 40 years. For those of us frequenting the area a period of 40 years cannot be perceived as being temporary and the harmful effect on the landscape would prevail for far too long. 

“In trying to justify solar farms Planning often call the sites temporary. But the sites have a lifetime of 40 years with no guarantee of removal at the end” (Local resident Trevor Bailey)

Visual impact


“Further degrading such a prominent and beautiful vista is unnecessary” (Local resident Tim Cann)

The cumulative visual impact of the extended solar farm will be in full view from a public footpath crossing Pedwell Hill as well as other public access viewpoints on higher ground. When viewed from these elevated positions no amount of screen planting will hide the devastating visual harm of this development on the local landscape character.  The before/after view below was taken from the public footpath on Pedwell Hill using a standard lens. This view is not included in the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment. 


The "after" view shows the visual impact a small part of the development would have on the landscape. The full spread of the solar panels continues beyond the picture frame to the left and right. The arrays appear dark because you are looking at the shaded underside of the solar panels. The photomontage was created for illustrative purposes only and does not form part of the Application.

Photo credit: Trevor Bailey.


“Whilst I support green energy initiatives when they are appropriately sited, I am against this proposed solar farm extension because it is not an appropriate use of this environmentally sensitive site. It will have a significant impact on local wildlife and damage an area of rich biodiversity which is of local and National importance. Any benefits from the solar farm cannot mitigate for the loss of land for the vital production of animal fodder and bedding material that plays an important role in our nation’s food production. The loss of such important agricultural land is not sustainable when current international food supplies are ‘fragile’, and there is a call for more food to be sourced from the UK. This is an example of the wrong development in the wrong location” (A resident of High Ham)


Please join us on Facebook and Instagram for news, views, and campaign information. We would welcome your continued support of our fight to stop this inappropriate development.

   Instagram: sos_somerset_levels 

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We need your continued support!



This piece was written and compiled by local residents Gerhard Hattingh, Tim Cann and Lone Hattingh

May 2024

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