The Great North-East wind farm debate has already generated a great deal of comment – and now surveys and statistics are being thrown into the mix.
Tourist chiefs in Northumberland fear the rush to erect hundreds of the giant pylons in the region represents a significant threat to the county’s natural beauty.
The fear is, in a nutshell, that they could drive away visitors – and their spending power.
That stance follows research carried out by VisitScotland which revealed 38% of visitors felt wind farms spoiled the scenery and 26% said they would be less likely to visit an area if wind farms were developed.
Those statistics will have many people nodding their heads in agreement.
One exception is the British Wind Energy Association – which represents wind farm developers – which says it has extensive research showing that turbines play a positive role in attracting visitors.
In fact, it is being argued, they become “tourist attractions in their own right”.
Many will find that a difficult concept to grasp but, accepting it for a moment, it also raises a question.
How long will this situation last once their novelty value wears off – as it undoubtedly will.
In tourism terms one key question needs to be addressed.
Are we putting at risk a perfectly viable, and potentially lucrative business to accommodate something which is still the subject of intense debate?
That is the question being raised by Northumberland Tourism – the agency set up this year to promote the county’s visitor industry.
And it is a perfectly valid one.
Northumberland’s greatest natural resources are its landscape, coastline and historic sites – but they are delicate assets.
The agency wants to be closely involved in the planning process – and rightly so.
This process is already under scrutiny over the fact that a majority of the projects planned in the North-East will not be decided by locally accountable planners.
They will be decided by civil servants in London who work for a Government desperate to prove its green credentials.
And that could be very bad news for the North-East tourist business.
Need for clear communication
Parents in Northumberland are concerned over plans to re-locate their children’s school, fearing the new site will not be up to scratch.
The local authority says they have nothing to worry about.
Only time will tell who is proved right over Burnside First School in Cramlington but – given the huge changes to come because of the controversial switch to a two-tier system – this incident does show the need for clear, open lines of communication.
By The Journal
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