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Cumbrian council urged to get tough on wind turbines

Anti-windfarm campaigners in Allerdale hope to beef up planning policies to make it harder for wind energy developers to get permission for turbines.

Allerdale council is consulting on the strategy and policy section of its next ‘local plan’, the blueprint that lays out what can be built where.

The Friends of Rural Cumbria’s Environment (Force) says the draft document is weak.

It has submitted a 17-page response, calling for a tougher stance.

Force says the local plan should:

• Set a minimum distance from residential property, starting at 500 metres for turbines up to 15 metres high, rising as the turbines get higher;
• Consider imposing a ceiling on the number of wind turbine developments in the borough.
• Take into account the “cumulative effect” of wind-energy schemes, including those for a single turbine;
• Discourage applications for medium and large turbines on farms;
• Emphasise that Allerdale has already made a “huge contribution” to meeting renewable energy targets and say that the preference for future low-carbon energy production is not onshore wind.

Force’s submission says: “We are not against genuinely small-scale, well-sited wind turbines, which do not harm the local amenity and supply energy to a farm or premises.

“What we are against is the inappropriate siting of large turbines, singly or in groups, where they adversely affect landscape and blight the lives of people who live nearby.”

Force also says the council’s document contains a glaring error.

It says the UK is committed to producing 35 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 when, Force argues, the target is only 15 per cent.

Marion Fitzgerald, chairwoman of Force, told The Cumberland News: “We think Allerdale’s attempt at the local plan is quite pathetic. There’s plenty wrong with it.

“They haven’t included a single policy that would help them prevent inappropriate wind turbine development.”

Ms Fitzgerald believes that Allerdale is “subservient” to the Britain’s Energy Coast initiative.

She added: “It’s a case of the tail wagging the dog.

“We are quite concerned that, by selling west Cumbria as ‘Britain’s Energy Coast’, we are making the place sound like a giant power station.”

Force says there have been 57 applications for wind energy- related developments in Allerdale already this year.

The group, which has 400 members, hopes that the Government’s recent National Planning Policy Framework will make it harder for developers to overrule the wishes of local people.

Previous applications for windfarms at High Pow, Wharrels Hill, Tallentire, Westnewton and Hellrigg were refused by Allerdale councillors only to be allowed by planning inspectors following appeals.

Force cites comments from Greg Clark, Minister of State in the Department for Communities and Local Government, in a Commons debate in April.

Mr Clark said: “Part of the purpose of our reforms is to move away from the situation in which decisions taken locally are overturned by the Planning Inspectorate.”

Allerdale’s local plan consultation closes this month.

A second consultation, on specific sites earmarked for development, will take place in autumn next year.

The council hopes that the new local plan will be adopted by January 2015.

Carlisle and Eden are going through the same process. Eden has completed its policy review and expects to consult on sites over the next 12 months.

Carlisle City Council is further behind but plans to consult on strategies and policies early next year.

Carlisle MP John Stevenson has called for a minimum distance clause in the city’s local plan to rule out schemes like that at Cumwhinton, which was turned down by a planning inspector last month. This would have erected a 328ft-turbine barely 400 yards from Cringles Farm.