Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks has warned planners to avoid “gung-ho” enthusiasm for wind turbine projects.
He called for developers and council planners to remember that despite green credentials, wind turbines were not the only option.
Mr Wicks said he was a big fan of wind energy but agreed with two recent North-East studies which called for planning departments to stop considering wind farm projects in isolation. Both the North-East Assembly and Berwick Borough Council hired researchers to consider the combined impact of three proposed wind farms in Northumberland.
And both reports agreed that while individual projects would secure planning permission, viewed together, the turbines would have too big an impact on the landscape.
Mr Wicks said the Government did not want to force through turbines where there was a good reason to refuse permission.
He said: “I’m a great fan of wind energy, but I always thought if it is not appropriate in a particular location, the answer should be no. And those answers sometimes come from the local authority and if they are very large, those decisions come through my department. I actually said no to one near the Lake District, but yes to another large one.
“The thing to remember is we should not be so gung-ho about any technology that we start to create a backlash in terms of public opinion.
“So, these are difficult matters and yes, we do need more wind energy and yes, we need to get to the EU targets on having 20% of our energy coming from renewables. But that does not mean we should be daft about always saying yes if the answer should be the reverse of that.”
Mr Wicks told a Labour Party conference fringe meeting: “We have the opportunity now for British business to lead the way on renewable technology, which was missed with wind turbines. If people are worried about the environmental problems, about the visual impact of turbines or the issues concerning biofuels, then the obvious answer is to do these things together instead of focusing on a single topic.”
John Ferguson, a member of wind farm campaign group Soul, said the minister’s remarks were a step in the right direction. He said: “Of course we are always happy to hear people with authority in the area of energy technology making pronouncements like that and we look forward to seeing it being turned into actions.
“Because we have been saying for too long now that wind farms have to be considered in terms of their overall impact, and we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed on this.
“It’s important that ministers realise just how big an impact these things have. I would be just 700 metres away from Barmoor wind farm, and these 300ft monstrosities are visible for miles around. And then to the North is another proposed wind farm just four kilometres away.
“And that impact is obviously not just felt by me, but by businesses and households across the area.”
Nick Goodall, of the Energy Networks Association, said that despite difficult decisions, the minister must work harder to meet EU renewable-energy targets. “The Government has a real responsibility to tackle this now and not put it off to another generation or another parliament, even if that means putting up many wind farms.”
27 September 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding