Rural campaigners have accused a Government quango of encouraging “the industrialisation of the countryside” after failing to stand up to wind-farm developers.
Natural England was set up by the Government a year ago with the aim of conserving and enhancing landscapes in rural areas, and has a £500m budget to help preserve countryside life across England.
But the conservation body has come in for criticism from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which says the quango is turning its back on places, such as Northumberland, which are fighting plans to build wind farms in scenic locations.
The CPRE warns the quango it could allow the industrialisation of the countryside because it is failing to balance conservation needs with efforts to increase levels of renewable energy.
Tom Oliver, head of rural policy at CPRE, said: “There is a risk that we will seriously harm magnificent and wild places with renewable energy infrastructure in the name of saving them from climate change.”
His report adds that Natural England’s commitment to fighting climate change “stretches to the limit the credibility of Natural England to act as the body with statutory responsibility for nationally-protected landscapes.
“In order to establish credibility in this area, it should avoid acting either deliberately or unwittingly as a proxy for the renewable energy industry, which already has many champions in Government.”
The CPRE called on the quango to use its power to prevent wind farms spoiling valued landscapes.
Northumberland CPRE chairman Dominic Coupe, who has campaigned against proposals for 18 turbines at Middlemoor near Alnwick, said opposition deserves a voice in government.
“At the moment the threat to the Northumberland countryside is very real, and we risk having the landscape peppered with wind-power stations.
“Voices such as Natural England should be supporting small local councils in opposing these developments and protecting the countryside for everyone’s benefit.
“The countryside in Northumberland is not just for the people who live here but for people travelling up to enjoy it from towns and cities in the North-East and the rest of the UK.
“There needs to be much more balance in Government when it comes to views on renewable energy.
“We are certainly not against renewable energy but there is a growing consensus that wind turbines may not be the right answer, that they may not be as effective as first thought.
“And that is all the more reason to halt their spread across our countryside.”
A spokesman for Natural England said: “We are committed to improving the environment and the aim of providing more renewable energy with the highest environmental standards.
“But we will only support these developments in the appropriate place and with due consideration to their impact.
“We seek to balance the need to provide renewable energy with the needs of the countryside and approach each proposal on a case-by-case basis.”
By Adrian Pearson
5 November 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding