The National Trust has insisted its position on renewable energy remains “unchanged” after its chairman launched an attack on the “public menace” of wind turbines destroying the countryside.
In an interview published in the Daily Telegraph yesterday, National Trust chairman Sir Simon Jenkins warned that wind was the “least efficient” form of green power and risked ruining the British countryside.
He said “not a week goes by” without the charity having to fight plans for wind farms threatening more than 700 miles of coastline, 28,500 acres of countryside and 500 properties owned by the trust.
“Broadly speaking, the National Trust is deeply sceptical of this form of renewable energy,” he said.
Responding to the interview yesterday, Peter Nixon, director of conservation at the trust, said: “The National Trust position remains unchanged.
“We have a duty to protect beautiful places, and believe that any wind energy proposals should be located, designed and on a scale that avoids compromising these.
“We believe strongly in the need to grow renewable energy generation and wean ourselves off fossil fuels.
“We have a target to generate 50 per cent of our own energy from renewables by 2020, including wind where it is not too large for its setting.
“We’re trying to show how this can be done without putting at risk our beautiful natural and built heritage.”
The trust is currently fighting a proposed offshore wind farm off the North Devon coast, which could see up to 417 turbines erected 14km from the coast and 13km from Lundy Island.
At the end of last year, it published an interim position statement on plans submitted by RWE npower Renewables Ltd for the Atlantic Array wind farm. The trust said it was concerned that the development was too close to the shore and could damage an environmentally important area.
The trust also recently objected to plans to erect a wind turbine up to 53m high on a patch of land near Newquay, Cornwall.
The proposals were rejected by Cornwall Council planners last August.
And last year, it joined a campaign to stop Britain’s most special “seascapes” being blighted by wind turbines and other development.
At the time, Phil Dyke, coast and marine adviser at the trust, cited the Atlantic Array proposals as a concern, as well as another offshore wind farm planned off the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.
He recognised the need for green energy, but said “society needs to have a conversation” about where turbines were built.
The trust already has 140 renewable energy projects installed on castles and farmland around the country, including a few small individual turbines.
But Sir Simon said most of the renewables would be hydroelectric plants. Biomass – the burning of plant matter – will also cut oil use to virtually zero.
“We are doing masses of renewables but wind is probably the least efficient and wrecks the countryside and the National Trust is about preserving the countryside,” said Sir Simon.
His outburst could herald another clash between the influential charity and the Government, after the widespread revolt against the coalition’s unpopular planning reform proposals.
Ed Davey, the new Energy and Climate Change Secretary, has come out strongly in support of wind, and the Government has already installed more than 3,500 turbines, with another 800 due to be completed this year.
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