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‘Beauty status will not block wind turbines’

Calls to officially designate the Yorkshire Wolds as an area of outstanding natural beauty need to treated with caution, according to a senior East Riding councillor.

Campaigners say the designation could protect the area from future wind farm and oil exploration developments.

They are lobbying for the landscapes made famous by Bridlington-based artist David Hockney to receive the same designation currently awarded to the Lincolnshire Wolds.

But Councillor Symon Fraser, the East Riding’s cabinet member for planning, said: “We need to be very careful if we are going to progress this idea.

“For a start, it’s important to state the link between designation and wind farms has been made by anti-wind farm campaigners, not me or the council.

“If a formal application for designation was in any way seen as any move to stop wind farm developments going forward then it could be seen as a threat to statutory targets set by the Government on renewable energy. In that context, it would not give us a level of extra protection that some people might think it does.”

He said a recent appeal decision approving a farm-based wind turbine scheme in the Lincolnshire Wolds underlined his point.

Speaking at a full council meeting, Mr Fraser said initial talks over the idea had been scheduled with Natural England, the agency which recommends designations to the Department of Environment.

“We are progressing this with the greatest possible care, focusing on the benefits it could bring against what it might stop,” he said.

“The positives range from increased tourism benefits and increased access to the countryside but there will also be an onus on greater stewardship levels among landowners.

“There are also some additional development controls and limitations that come with a designation, but not a lot.

“We have made an informal approach to Natural England and there is a need to discuss things in greater detail.

“What is already clear is that getting a global design for the whole of the Wolds is unlikely.

“If it happened at all it would be in different pockets because only certain bits would meet the criteria for approval.”

He said the Lincolnshire Wolds designation had taken six years to win approval and had only been given the thumbs-up by Natural England “through gritted teeth”.

“We are led to believe they are not keen on new designations,” he said.