June 18 2013 Latest news:
By MARTIN GEORGE
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Conservative and Liberal Democrat energy ministers today clashed in public over government policy on wind farms in the countryside.
The issue of wind turbines is a subject that has caused many a heated debate in Norfolk villages for several years.
You can pretty much guarantee that every time an application is submitted, it is followed by the setting up of san action group to fight the proposals.
Anti-turbine groups fear that giant masts in Norfolk and Waveney will blight the countryside and people’s homes, while those in the pro camp are keen to see the region do its bit to meet green energy targets.
This year alone there have been several high-profile cases.
In June a High Court judge gave new ammunition to onshore wind-farm objectors after rejecting plans for four 105-metre high turbines near Hemsby and Ormesby, near Great Yarmouth, after ruling that government renewable energy targets should not override local planning policies.
In her ruling against the appeal by developer SLP Energy, Mrs Justice Lang said a planning inspector had been entitled to her view that government energy targets were outweighed by the harm the scheme would cause to the character and appearance of the area.
Meanwhile, earlier this month a renewable energy firm’s hopes of building three giant wind turbines in south Norfolk were dashed when a planning inspector dismissed its appeal.
Oxfordshire-based TCI Renewables appealed against South Norfolk Council’s decision in 2010 to refuse planning permission for three 126m high turbines at Upper Vaunces Farm between Rushall, Dickleburgh, Pulham Market and Pulham St Mary.
But in a report issued by inspector Zoe Hill - following a lengthy inquiry - the proposals were refused on the grounds of impact on local residents and affect on the landscape and local listed buildings.
The applicants said the turbines would generate enough renewable energy to power about 3,500 homes.
And in August this year, councillors threw out a plan to build an 86.5m wind turbine on the edge of a north Norfolk village.
After a debate that lasted about 90 minutes, North Norfolk District Council’s (NNDC) development committee rejected the bid to build a single turbine on the edge of Bodham.
The Tory energy minister John Hayes condemned the “peppering” of wind farms across the countryside, insisting: “Enough is enough.”
He said the spread of turbines “seems extraordinary” and they should no longer be “imposed on communities”, and said new research on wind turbines would make a far wider assessment of their impact on the rural landscape and property prices.
However, his Lib Dem boss Energy Secretary Ed Davey this morning said government policy had not changed.
He said: “There are no targets – or caps – for individual renewable technologies such as onshore wind. Nor are there reviews being done of onshore wind on the basis of landscape or property values.
“What we’re currently consulting on are ways of making sure local communities feel the benefit of hosting wind farms, and whether our understanding of future costs is accurate.”
Mr Hayes’ comments came as music to the ears of campaigners in communities in Norfolk where wind farm plans have been defeated.
Jonathan Powell, chairman of the Creakes Action for Protecting the Environment which has campaigned against six turbines, supported any moves to take into account the impact of turbines on the countryside.
He said: “We are a nation of 60 million people jammed in a very small island where open spaces are rare and we need to guard them and we need to guard them jealously because most of our population is urban and for them an open space is not being used properly if nothing is being built on it. We need to keep these empty spaces.
“If you look at the amount of carbon saved when measured against the amount of carbon the nation produces, and if you look at the amount of electricity they produce, in both cases they are piddling in the wind.”
However, Geoff Hinchliffe, spokesman for the Campaign Against Nimbyism in Shipdham which has fought a decade-long battle with fellow villagers over plans for two 100m wind turbines, suspected Mr Hayes’ comments were more about politics than changing government policy.
He said: “I want to know what he is playing at because the head of that department is very much in support of them. I think it’s party politics again. I think it’s the Tories going against the coalition agreement and trying to get their own way again.”
He added that while there were places where wind turbines should not be built because of the impact on the countryside, he believed any government analysis would of the issue would be biased against wind farms, and Mr Hayes was “scare mongering”.
For more analysis and to find out what councils and environment campaigners in this region think of the plans see tomorrow’s paper.