Cumbria County Council’s Leader and Cabinet member responsible for environment have both raised concerns over the county having to shoulder an unfair burden in terms of new wind turbines being built in the county at a Full Council meeting today (April 19).
A lobby group of anti-wind farm protestors attended the council’s Annual General Meeting in Kendal as part of a national day of action for wind farm opposition groups.
Cumbria County is not the planning authority which determines applications for new wind turbines, although it is a statutory consultee on strategically significant new schemes. Therefore, campaigners have raised their concerns and frustrations with the planning system with the county council, and also thanked councillors for their ongoing support in trying to halt the onward march of new turbines across the county.
Cllr Tim Knowles, Cabinet member responsible for environment, responded to the concerns raised by campaigners: “The county council is aware of the increasing alarm and frustration in some of our communities about the impacts of wind turbines on many of our cherished landscapes outside the designated areas of the National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Alongside this awareness is an acknowledgement that Cumbria has played, and will continue to play, a major role in addressing the nation’s low carbon energy needs. This is why we are at the forefront of the debate on how Cumbria can take forward the Government’s policy of New Nuclear Build and are keen to explore how other renewable technologies can be promoted with the associated environmental and economic benefits they can bring.
“However, we are becoming increasingly concerned that for the county to play its full and proper role in supporting the nation’s low carbon energy mix, that Government and the renewable energy sector do not see us as having limitless capacity to accommodate every new proposal for a wind turbine. This is particularly the case where the cumulative impacts of these structures are starting to erode the character and qualities of our landscapes that attract so many visitors and their tourist pounds,” said Cllr Knowles.
He also raised concerns that the appeals process in the existing planning system puts the district councils between a rock and a hard place as national considerations to generate more power can often outweigh local concerns on landscape impact. This leaves councils with the risk of having to pay the costs of the appeals process if developers successfully appeal an application that has been denied by the local planning authority.
Cllr Eddie Martin, Leader of Cumbria County Council, also voiced his frustrations at the council meeting, stating that Cumbria is currently home to more wind turbines than the combined total of 22 other home county areas.
“The plethora of wind farms creeping across the county are against the wishes of the majority of local people. If the Government is as good as its word about localism and letting local people dictate and direct local issues then they need to listen to local people and hear us loud and clear when we say ‘no new wind farms’.
“I am not only concerned about the visual impact of all these turbines, I am also angered by the obscene subsidies developers are offered to build new turbines. This money needs to come from somewhere – it is not a free gift from the Government, it’s a tax on energy users as we all end up paying for these subsidies through higher energy bills.
“Fuel poverty is a big problem in Cumbria and we can ill afford to prop up wind turbines with rocketing fuel bills. Fuel is as important as food for day-to-day living and therefore fuel should be treated like most food and be VAT exempt, a suggestion I have already put to the Chancellor only to be turned down,” said Cllr Martin.
Cllr Knowles confirmed that officers at the county council are looking at developing a project to assess the cumulative impacts of National Grid infrastructure, wind turbines, telecommunications masts and other ‘vertical infrastructure’ on landscapes that might potentially be impacted by the North West Coast Connections Project. Subject to Cabinet members agreeing the principles of this project, it is anticipated that this will help the council develop a methodology to better interpret how new energy infrastructure will impact on the landscape.
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