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Wind farm plans blown off course

Developers will be blocked from building wind farms in the Staffordshire countryside as part of plans to protect tourism and rural communities.

Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet yesterday signed a new policy on controversial turbine developments, which members hope will put off developers targeting the region’s green space.

It comes as authorities prepare for a rush of planning applications for wind farms amid speculation the Government is on the brink of slashing subsidies for on-shore wind energy plants.

The move has been attacked by the wind power industry as ‘undemocratic.’

The authority’s policy will see it steer its own verdicts on large developments and give district councils formal grounds for objecting. It states:

No wind farms should be built within 2km of residential developments to protect homeowners from noise disturbance and spoiled views;

Applications for wind farms encroaching on beauty spots such as the Moorlands’ Peak National Park, or positioned within 2km of the boundaries, should be rejected;

Views of historic or significant landmarks, including buildings, parks, gardens, conservation areas and churches should not be compromised;

Any wind farm that does win approval must deliver proven ‘economic, social, environmental and community benefits’ – as well as posing no threat to tourism.

The policy concerns ‘large scale’ wind farm proposals, including any that include a single turbine more than 50 metres high, any development including two turbines higher than 30 metres and any development of 10 turbines of any size.

It also covers wind farms designed primarily to generate and sell power to the national grid, rather than a specific house or the local network.

County councillor Mark Winnington, cabinet member for environment and assets, said: “The council is very concerned large wind energy proposals would result in the industrialisation of a high rural county renowned for the quality of its landscapes.

“The importance of uninterrupted vistas is a significant aspect of the character of the Staffordshire landscape.”

Despite being a key part of the Government’s renewable energy strategy, wind farms often stall due to opposition from residents.

Campaigners successfully fought plans to build a 132-metre turbine at Checkley sewage works, between Uttoxeter and Cheadle.

But earlier this month, planning permission was granted for a 34.2 metre mast at Red Earth Farm in Rudyard,

Robert Norris, of Renewable UK, the trade body representing the wind power industry, said: “Any attempt to introduce what could amount to a blanket ban on wind energy would be undemocratic. Each proposal should be examined on a case-by-case basis.

“Arbitrary limits on how we generate clean energy should not be imposed, as they are blunt instruments which take no account of local conditions.”