Anti-windfarm campaigners fear national planning policy changes could lead to a “stampede” of turbine bids in rural Cumbria.
People from the Wigton and Aspatria areas have been among the most vocal campaigners against turbine developments, after a clutch of them were put forward.
Consultation closed this week on a new planning policy framework designed to give communities more power in deciding what is built where they live.
But Marion Fitzgerald, of Bolton Low Houses, a member of Friends of Rural Cumbria’s Environment (Force), fears new legislation could increase windfarm developments in the area.
She said: “If the changes go ahead, we could see a stampede of wind farm developers in rural Cumbria outside the National Park and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
“The ring of steel around the Lake District that we have been warning about for some years now is set to become a reality if nothing is done about this. Cumbria really must find a voice to say that enough is enough.”
A Renewable Energy Road Map, produced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change in July, outlines areas in Cumbria identified as potential spots for renewable development.
Part of the Government proposals include removing barriers to potential economic investment and lowering greenhouse gases by promoting new development.
The draft national planning policy framework states that when considering applications, planning authorities should apply the presumption in favour of sustainable development. It says authorities should “not require applications for energy development to demonstrate the overall need for renewable or low-carbon energy” and “should approve the application if its impacts are, or can be made, acceptable”.
The document adds that planning authorities “should take into account the economic and other benefits of the best and most versatile agricultural land”. It adds that local authorities should protect Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Broads, and National Parks ‘except for major developments in designated areas’ and ‘except in exceptional circumstances where it can be demonstrated they are in the public interest’.
Consultation on the national stage – and the concerns they have triggered locally – has closed as discussions over a number of proposed windfarm sites in the area continue.
Your Energy has proposed eight turbines at Little Waver Wind Farm, near Bolton Low Houses. In August the company were granted permission by the Allerdale Council to erect an anemometry mast on land at The Close in Bolton parish to measure wind force and velocity.
Developments at Tallentire Hill and Westnewtown of six and five turbines respectively have been approved and construction is underway on a four-turbine site at Hellrigg.
Ms Fitzgerald said:“We are gravely concerned about proposed changes to planning legislation which seemingly will remove such obstacles as there are for windfarm developers.”
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