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MP raise questions over planning guidance

Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith raised questions about planning guidance in relation to windfarms in parliament.

Chairing a debate about planning in Northumberland Sir Alan said he wanted to answer three main questions – does the guidance enable planning authorities to combine the protection of the countryside with the encouragement of those forms of development that local people need if they are to have affordable homes and jobs? How does the guidance affect the strategic housing land assessment that councils have been required to carry out? And how will it be applied to windfarms and wind turbines?

He said: “The Government is right to get rid of much of the top-down structure and guidance that has grown up over the years.

“Regional spatial strategies have ludicrously restricted the number of houses that can be built in Northumberland’s rural villages, and regional strategy has created a presumption in favour of windfarms in many of the most attractive parts of my constituency.

“The objective of having a much shorter guidance manual is correct, but the Government must develop clearer wording around the concept of a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’.”

He added: “Large parts of my constituency, which is characterised by beautiful countryside and stunning views, have been designated as suitable for onshore wind generation.

“Some parts, such as the national park, although not the adjoining areas, have been excluded.

“The result is an avalanche of applications for the rest of the area, some of which encircle communities such as Wingates, a hilltop village near Rothbury.

“In the borders region, 250 turbines have been erected and 600 are in the planning process.

“Northumberland has granted permission for three windfarms, and a further 10 have been approved by inspectors on appeal. The planning authority needs to be confident that it is free to make sensible, careful and robust decisions about which sites to approve and which to reject. Opinions are, of course, divided over individual wind farm sites and about the general policy of windfarm development.”