A local tenant farmer has spoken out after being given notice to leave the land he has farmed on for nearly 15 years to make way for a solar farm.

Andrew Lake, aged 58, is the tenant cattle farmer of High Barn Farm in Barkham Farm, Wokingham.

Last September, he was given notice to leave the farmland by the landowner, Wokingham Borough Council, which wants to build a 72,000 panel solar farm on the land.

Mr Lake has taken a dim view of the plan, warning that he’ll have to sell his herd of hundreds of cows and that the land will be lost forever once the solar farm has run its course.

READ MORE: Wokingham Borough Council unveils plans for massive new solar farm

He is currently searching for new a farm, but confessed: “It’s very difficult at the moment to be quite honest. Definitely, if it goes through [plans are approved] I will have to move. A the moment because of covid and Brexit property is few and far between.

“Quite how they think the food will come from to feed an expanding population I don’t know.

“If you keep taking farmland out of production, where are people going to get their food from?

“What this would do is get rid of productive farmland, which goes against Government guidelines.”

He went on to echo Liberal Democrat arguments that the better policy would be to add solar panels onto new builds in the borough.

Mr Lake argued that leaving the land could have dire implications for his herd of cows, which consists of 360-380 animals.

“I’ve been farming on the land for 12-14 years. If I can’t find somewhere I’ll have to sell them for breeding or have them slaughtered on the meat chain.

“Because of the growing population and the commuter belt, this land will be brick and mortar in the next 10 years. Our hands are being forced.”

Bracknell News: Andrew Lake has 360-380 cows at High Barn Farm. He will have to relocate or face having to sell or slaughter his cattle. Credit: Andrew LakeAndrew Lake has 360-380 cows at High Barn Farm. He will have to relocate or face having to sell or slaughter his cattle. Credit: Andrew Lake

He explained it is not just his livelihood at stake,  he has to consider his 26-year-old son and 21 year-old daughter’s future also.

Mr Lake said: “Both of them want to get into the farming industry and I don’t know what to do about it.”

His most damning claim is that the farmland will be lost forever once the solar farm has completed its lifecycle.

He said: “Once these solar farms run their course it will be built on after 20 years.

“Once it’s gone it’s gone, it will never revert to farmland.

“These solar farms have lifespans of 15-20 years, and the panels themselves come from China. It’s not very efficient.”

He added: “It will be brownfield land once the solar farm’s lifecycle is up. There’a going to be a very huge cost for decommisioning it.

“Once it’s gone that will be it, there will be no looking back.”

Bracknell News: Andrew Lake says he has two children, aged 26 and 21 who are keen to get into farming. Credit: Andrew LakeAndrew Lake says he has two children, aged 26 and 21 who are keen to get into farming. Credit: Andrew Lake

Wokingham Borough Council has responded to Mr Lake’s multiple allegations.

On the cost impact of the scheme, a spokesman admitted a one-off estimated figure of £21 million would have to be spent. However, he stressed that this included the planting of 15,000 trees and the formation of a ‘greenway’ which the council states would better connect Finchampstead and Arborfield to the wider area.

Answering Mr Lake’s claim that the solar panels would come from China, the spokesman answered that there has been no decision on where the panels will be sourced from yet, although he did admit that it is “unlikely” that the panels would be built in the UK because of a lack of producers.

The spokesman said that any carbon used to import the panels would be offset by the generation of renewable energy.

READ MORE: Wokingham Conservatives defend huge Barkham solar farm plan

The council is also unable to assist Mr Lake in finding a new farm in the borough, but said they would work to help him in any way they can.

Councillor Gregor Murray, executive member for carbon emissions said: “In 2020 the council adopted the climate emergency action plan and committed themselves to making Wokingham Borough carbon net zero by 2030. This is not something we took lightly and, to achieve this, tough decisions are going to have to be made.

“The decision to use this land to generate green renewable energy, rather than as farmland, is just such a decision. The solar farms are a critical part of the councils plans to, not only reduce local carbon emissions, but to create access to renewable sources of energy in the local area. We continue to work with the tenant to support him with any changes where we can.

“In addition to providing renewable energy the farms also represent a good investment for local residents as energy generated can be sold on, not only covering the costs of installing them, but generating a profit which will help fund services for residents and other green projects across the area.

“Despite fears that creating the solar farm will change the site to brownfield this simply isn’t the case. The panels as mounted on poles in the ground, cause minimum disruption and, at the end of the 25 years can be removed and the land reverted to farmland straight away.”