YouGov poll shows public favour the protection of scenic wild land over the building of commercial wind farms
Conservation charity, the John Muir Trust, today released the results of a YouGov poll revealing widespread support across Britain, including in Scotland, for prioritising the protection of scenic wild land over large scale wind farms. The poll, based on a large sample of 2,269 GB adults, finds that:
• 40 per cent of people said the Government should prioritise protecting scenic wild land from large commercial wind farms, even if this means that there is less opportunity to develop wind power in those areas.
• 28 per cent said the Government should prioritise building large commercial wind farms, even if this means that some are placed on scenic wild land.
Even in Scotland, where wind power has been promoted as a potential economic bonanza, the twenty first century equivalent of the discovery of North Sea oil, the results reveal that:
• 37 per cent said the Government should prioritise protecting scenic wild land from large commercial wind farms, even if this means that there is less opportunity to develop wind power in those areas.
• 30 per cent said the Government should prioritise building large commercial wind farms, even if this means that some are placed on scenic wild land.
Threat to tourism
The poll also suggests that high concentrations of wind farms could pose a serious threat to tourism in Britain’s scenic areas. The poll shows that:
• 43 per cent of people in Britain who visit scenic areas in the UK for their natural heritage and beauty would be ‘less likely to visit a scenic area with a large concentration of wind farms’
• Just 2 per cent say they would be ‘more likely to visit a scenic area with a large concentration of wind farms’.
In Scotland, the respective figures are 36 per cent who would be less likely to visit and 2 per cent who would be more likely to visit.
This is the first national poll to measure the level of public support for large scale wind farms in our valuable natural landscapes. It is also the first poll to gauge the potential impact on tourism in areas like the Scottish Highlands, where large scale wind projects have been built or are in the pipeline. Previous polls have sought only to measure general support for wind power. However, the Trust believes that it’s possible to support wind power while opposing the building of turbines on important areas of wild land.
The John Muir Trust took advice from YouGov on the wording of the questions to avoid any suggestion that they were loaded or biased.
‘Conservationists in tune with mainstream opinion’
Responding to the poll, Stuart Brooks, Chief Executive of the John Muir Trust said: “This poll confirms what we already suspected: that there is a growing groundswell of opposition to the siting of large-scale wind farms on wild land – much of which is in Scotland. This sends a clear message to politicians of all parties who have supported policies to industrialise our landscapes with wind turbines double the height of the Scott Monument.
“This is an issue that cuts across traditional party political allegiances and urban-rural divisions. The poll shows that the goal of protecting our beautiful and dramatic landscapes has widespread support across all social classes, and in almost every region of the UK. It demolishes the argument that concern over wild land is motivated by ‘nimbyism’. Indeed, support for protecting wild land is shown to be strongest in one of our most urbanised regions of the UK, the West Midlands.
“Until now, people have tried to dismiss conservation groups like the John Muir Trust as isolated voices. This poll shows that we are in tune with mainstream public opinion across the UK. We want to use this evidence to increase protection for wild land. We can do that as well as being supportive of renewable energy.”
‘A serious threat to areas whose lifeblood is tourism’
The chairman of the John Muir Trust, John Hutchison, who lives in the Highlands said: “Global energy corporations are exploiting the Scottish Highlands, which is widely regarded as being one of the most beautiful regions of Britain, and indeed the world.
“This poll suggests that up to 17.5 million adults* (see footnote) across the Britain may think twice about visiting areas where the landscape is blighted by turbines. That represents a serious long-term threat to those areas whose economic lifeblood is tourism.”
‘Existing designations are failing to protect wild land’
Helen McDade, Head of Policy for the John Muir Trust – who has just given evidence at a public inquiry against the planned Allt Duine wind farm in the Highlands – said: “There is now a relentless march of wind turbines into areas that most people would regard as scenic wild land.
“The Allt Duine proposal, for example, would mean the construction of 31 turbines, each 125 metres high, which would be visible from across 100 square miles of the Cairngorms National Park.
“Existing designations are failing to protect our wild land. Time is rapidly running out for politicians to take positive action to keep industrial wind farms out of our most precious landscapes.
“We will be highlighting this poll to put pressure on governments in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast to bring forward measures to increase protection for wild and scenic land across the UK and prevent further losses.”
Notes for editors
• *The 17.5 million figure is based on the following calculation: 9 per cent of people never visit scenic areas specifically for their natural heritage and beauty; these were excluded from the sample. The combined electoral register for England, Scotland and Wales, minus 9 per cent, is 40,840,000. 43 per cent of 40,840,000 = just over 17.65 million
• All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2269 adults, of which 187 are from Scotland. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23rd-24th September 2012. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18 ).
• In Scotland, there are currently 176 windfarms (2,136 turbines) operational or under construction. 113 developments (981 turbines) have been approved that are not yet built. And 166 (1,667 turbines) are in planning. Throughout the world, wild land is a finite and diminishing resource. The John Muir Trust opposes inappropriate development on important areas of wild land in the UK – that is, large areas of high scenic and wildlife value, with minimal evidence of modern human development.
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