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Wind turbine buffer zones ‘could hinder communities’

Councils must not bow to pressure from campaigners to create buffer zones around towns and villages to prevent wind farms blighting people’s lives, a new report claims.

The study comes as a battle rages across the region between renewable energy plant developers and locals who say turbines are being built much too close to homes.

Pressure on the Government to legislate increased in May when a Private Member’s Bill proposing a minimum distance between turbines and residential premises had its first reading in the House of Lords.

But now Pro-renewable energy agency Regen South West has produced a report – Residential buffer zones for wind turbines: the evidence – which reviews the latest evidence on the noise, safety, health impacts and public opinion of wind turbines.

Cheryl Hiles, Regen’s director of sustainable energy delivery, said policies that put “whole areas of land off limits” without assessing specific local circumstances are in conflict with national policy and could “result in communities losing out on the chance to host their own turbines”.

She added: “As with any other development, the planning process should take a robust approach to ensuring wind turbines are appropriately sited and any impacts are minimised.

“This can be done most effectively by taking a case-by-case approach to each proposed development.”

So far, no council in the South West has imposed a buffer zone and permission for schemes continue to hinge on whether an individual turbine meets the so-called Lavender test, named after a ruling from planner David Lavender at a public inquiry.

He said turbines should be refused only if they “represent an unpleasantly overwhelming and unavoidable presence” in main views from a house or garden. But only if the property becomes “widely regarded as an unattractive and unsatisfactory place to live” should a scheme be rejected.

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) in North Devon, which is assisting with a High Court challenge to nine massive turbines at Batsworthy Cross, regards this test as “too extreme”.

CPRE spokesman Bob Barfoot said: “The distance has got to depend on the size of the turbine and other factors such as topography.

“The bigger the turbine the further away they should be.

“But developers have run out of wild spots in the wilderness and are now hunting in the most populated areas.”