A FAMILY fighting to save half their farm from a solar energy scheme have said they are gaining support in their ‘David and Goliath’ fight.

Robert and Emma Sturdy, who live on the 280-acre Eden Farm near Old Malton, with their children Sebastian and Lizzie, are campaigning to save the 130 acres earmarked for the project for more than 90,000 solar panels.

Yorkshire-based Harmony Energy is preparing to submit a proposal to Ryedale District Council to build a solar farm with battery energy storage on land owned by the Fitzwilliam Trust Corporation.

The development would see the installation of free-standing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on agricultural land, with the capacity to generate up to 50MW of low carbon electricity. This power which would feed into the local electricity network and supply energy for the equivalent of over 14,000 local homes

A group of objectors attended a Malton Town Council meeting last week to show their support for the Sturdy family who gave a presentation alongside Harmony Energy.

Emma said: “I think people are willing to support us because we’ve already been granted our tenancy, which is a three-generation tenancy.

“Rob has the right to farm this land for his lifetime.”

Emma and Rob Sturdy have been in residency at Eden Farm since 2014 with their two children, prior to this John Sturdy, Rob’s late father, was the tenant farmer and prior to that Rob’s grandfather began the Sturdy legacy on the farm in 1954. The farm has been in the Sturdy Family for over 67 years.

Emma said: “This land is occupied and it’s already farmed. We appreciate the place for renewables in the future and the need for them, but it has to be located on low-grade land.

“That means that if they need to go some way further afield from the substation, at an extra expense to them, then so be it.

“I think that’s what people are saying - it’s not okay to just railroad into this community, which is a rural community.”

“ It will be interesting to see how this proposal develops, and whether this David and Goliath story has the result that local residents, and our family in particular, desperately want to see, with the proposal being refused by the planners.”

One of the protesters, Kerry Megginson, said the scheme contradicted the message of Malton being Yorkshire’s food capital.

She said: “We appreciate the need to have alternative energy sources, but it should not be at the expense of a dedicated farming family’s livelihood. It would be a disgrace to lay waste the productive arable land. It makes no sense whatsoever and contradicts the virtuous message of Malton being Yorkshire’s Food Capital with superb local, farm to fork produce.”

Local resident Anne Bell, who has also written to Kevin Hollinrake MP about the scheme, said: “We all know there is a balance to be struck between custodianship of the land, our food production, the problem of climate change requiring us to take drastic and immediate measures to combat it, but the ‘hijacking’ of top quality fertile and versatile farmland cannot be justified.

“So far as we can tell, the main reason for choosing this site is that it happens to be next to a sub-station with which it could link up quite cheaply.What the county and country needs is vision. That means utilising brownfield and low grade sites; legislation to compel building companies to include solar tiles/panels on all new build homes and commercial properties.

“Climate Change is with us and needs radical solutions - we know this and that is why there needs to be a regulatory body which will ensure that opportunistic plans are not railroaded through, purely for profit.”

Malton Town Council said it would comment formally when the planning application was received. A spokesperson for Harmony Energy said they would further comment in due course.