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Planners ‘hands tied’ over wind farm decisions

A decision to take a stronger stance against wind farms is welcome but has no teeth, according to a councillor involved in considering planning applications for new turbines in South Holland.

Lincolnshire County Council’s environmental scrutiny committee decided on Friday to recommend that all future plans for wind farms are resisted.

Members also urged any company wishing to start a development here to think twice.

South Holland District Council planning committee chairman Roger Gambba-Jones said he welcomed anyone who chose to join the battle to stop the district being overrun by turbines, but said planners still had to abide by Government guidelines, which are weighted towards approving them.

He said: “We still have these guidelines to contend with and if you look at recent applications nationally there are a number of examples where decisions to turn down wind farms have been reversed by the planning inspector.

“This move by the county council is in the right direction.

“They want more caution in the approach to applications, rather than them just being chucked at us and us having to accept them, but unfortunately that needs to come from Whitehall level to make a difference.”

“As it is our hands are tied by regulations.

“You have to remember this is where it gets difficult for councillors.

“Our hearts often tell us that there will be an impact on people living in the shadow of a wind farm, but if we refuse an application and the developer appeals, it can end up costing us tens of thousands of pounds.

“I’m sure taxpayers would be less than impressed with that.

“I applaud the committee for what they have done, but unfortunately it will have little impact.”

Decisions to approve or reject wind farms rest with district council or the Secretary of State, dependent on their size, taking into account the views of the county council as a consultee.

Speaking after the environmental scrutiny committee meeting, chairman Colin Davie said: “We think it is unfair for residential areas to be blighted by wind farms, and are particularly concerned about the long-term damage caused to county roads during the construction and decommissioning of turbines.

“On top of this, onshore wind turbines are one of the least efficient ways of producing electricity.

“The fact that these developments are subsidised through energy bills is also contributing to the increase in ‘fuel poverty’, which currently affects a quarter of county homes.”

The recommendation will now be put to county council’s executive next Wednesday.