A temporary halt to any further wind farm approvals in Northumberland would be welcomed by many local people amid growing alarm over the number of giant turbines getting the green light, it is claimed.
A moratorium on granting planning consent for more turbines – pending a county council review of Northumberland’s renewable energy policies – would be justified in the minds of many residents, according to a senior Conservative councillor.
Coun Glen Sanderson will float the idea in a notice of motion to the council next week, which also calls for urgent public consultations on the drafting of a county-wide planning strategy on wind energy.
The latest moves follow growing concerns, both locally and nationally, over the numbers of turbines being approved, and the cost to taxpayers of subsidising the wind energy industry.
Last month it was revealed that more than 100 Conservative MPs had written to David Cameron to demand cuts in the £400m-a-year subsidies paid to the industry.
There have also been recent claims that Northumberland is at risk of becoming a “turbine landscape”, with impacts on long-distance views and the vital tourism industry.
Northumberland currently has 27 operational turbines – but almost 100 more have been given planning approval and are not yet built, with others in the planning system or under site investigation. Yesterday Coun Sanderson said he had decided not to use his notice of motion to formally call for a council moratorium on further wind turbine approvals, as he feared this would be legally risky.
He said: “What I am saying is that many, many people across Northumberland clearly feel the council would be justified in imposing a moratorium until we carry out urgent consultations and come up with a county-wide policy on renewable energy.
“We are now told that nationally the number of wind farms that have been agreed, or are passing through planning procedures, are sufficient to meet the Government’s renewables targets set for 2020. It is widely felt that Northumberland is contributing more than its fair share to that total. There are clear concerns about the limited benefits which communities get from wind farms, the issue of subsidies and fuel poverty and the impact on our countryside and tourism.”
Environmental campaigner Bill Short of Kirkwhelpington, who has given a series of presentations claiming that Northumberland is doing more than its fair share on wind energy, said he supported halting further consents for turbines.
He said: “Given that the minister has now confirmed the figures in my presentations, and that we now have sufficient wind farms in the planning system to meet our requirements, I believe that would be a very sensible thing to do. Northumberland has approved 17 times more wind generation than the English average.”
Fellow environmental campaigner Malcolm Reid from the Tyne Valley, who is a strong advocate of wind energy, said a moratorium would be a “knee jerk reaction”.
He said: “Any decision like that should be based on proper evidence. As far as meeting targets is concerned, it is operational wind farms that count, and Northumberland is way down on that.”
A council spokeswoman said Coun Sanderson had consulted the monitoring officer on the wording of his motion. Next week’s full council meeting will be given advice by the monitoring officer, if required, on the motion.
It is widely felt that Northumberland is contributing more than its fair share to that total
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