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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Turbine process full of too much hot air

Congratulations have to go to villagers and local folk who have actually won a fight to block a wind turbine being built in their neighbourhood.

Developers were looking to erect an 80m high turbine at Boltongate, near Wigton.

The country is soft, rolling grassland just outside the national park, not spectacular, but still beautiful and teeming with wildlife.

When the plans were reveals, locals were rightly furious and immediately mobilised to form Friends of Rural Cumbria’s Environment (FORCE).

They opposed the plan, arguing that an influx of single-turbine developments would change the classification of the area, making it easier for developers to obtain permission for larger projects.

An Allerdale Council development panel agreed and has turned down permission for the turbine. So far, so HURRAH!

It is a victory for “the little people”, a triumph of sense and a sympathy for the countryside.

However, there is still one grim grey dark cloud hovering over the beautiful (relatively) unspoilt landscape.

Local decisions have to give way to national policy.

The company may yet appeal, the villagers may face another and expensive battle.

There are already three turbines in the area, occasionally working, turning out what must be a near-useless supply of power.

Has anyone seen any of them moving during this week’s fine weather?

In a design and access document, developer Stern Wind said that national and local planning policy offers support for developments such as the Boltongate turbine.

This is where the issue lies: a national planning policy that is unwieldy and fails to properly take account of the effect and blight these windmills have on people and the countryside they are imposed upon.

The new-look, revamped and overhauled planning policy just announced by the government (the National Planning Policy Framework) should have included tightening of the regulations surrounding turbines.

Sadly, it looks as though it has made it easier to plant them in our countryside.

Instead of clearing up planning complexities, the Government has announced a set of guidelines that are open to interpretation and argument and will lead to more appeals to the planning inspector, not less, which will be more expensive for developers and councils alike.

It states that local planning authorities have a “duty” to promote renewable energy, but also to protect the “intrinsic character and beauty” of the countryside.

Where do turbines fit into this? How does one balance against the other?

A simple way forward would be to ban them from agricultural land and restricted to “brownfield” sites or offshore.

Over in Eskdalemuir, the company behind plans to site a giant turbine have announced they will appeal against a local decision to deny planning permission for it.

And there is a second public inquiry to be held into a turbine scheme for Cumwhinton, near Carlisle.

Until there are national policy changes on this issue, any decisions by local authorities can only delay the inevitable.

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