November 22, 2012

Windfarm ‘obsession’ will ruin Lakes economy, says Cumbria County Council leader Eddie Martin

By Steven Bell, Reporter | The Westmorland Gazette | 21 November 2012 |

Cumbria County Council leader Eddie Martin has accused Energy Secretary Ed Davey of being ‘fixated’ and ‘obsessed’ with windfarms.

In a strongly-worded letter blasting their effect on the county’s economy, Mr Martin said Cumbria ‘continued to be disfigured and scarred’ by growing numbers of turbines.

Writing to energy minister John Hayes MP, he called on the Government to channel the ‘extraordinary subsidies’ given to windfarm developers into alternative methods of energy, such as tidal, hydro and nuclear.

Coun Martin’s comments come a week before South Lakeland’s newest windfarm is due to take shape at Armistead, near Old Hutton, despite widespread local opposition.

“The county council has grave concerns that the current targets for onshore wind-generated energy ride roughshod over the capacity of our landscapes and seascapes to satisfactorily accommodate further windfarms,” wrote Mr Martin.

“Cumbria’s environment is a key asset for economic well-being. The county council believes that a proliferation of windfarms will undermine efforts to address the county’s economic problems.”

Conservative energy minister Mr Hayes recently ruffled feathers with his Liberal Democrat superior after claiming windfarms would no longer be ‘imposed on communities’.

But Mr Davey later slapped down the comments, reaffirming the Government’s commitment to wind energy to meet EU targets.

Mr Martin’s letter to Mr Hayes continued: “Cumbria’s economy is already fragile and we cannot afford for it to be diminished or damaged even further.

“So, I call on the Secretary of State to reduce his fixation with windfarms and I fully support the stance you have so clearly and bravely articulated.”

It is understood the first turbine tower for the Armistead scheme, near Old Hutton, will be delivered next Wednesday, November 28, by developers Banks Renewables.

Meanwhile, the firm has equipped 20 homes at Killington, where it has applied for planning permission to build a windfarm, with a 3G-based broadband system in a month-long trial.

Banks has promised to identify how faster internet access can be improved in the village, but only if its windfarm scheme is approved by South Lakeland planners.

The company has allocated a so-called ‘community benefits fund’ to finance local projects.

Banks claims the windfarm – between the A684 and junction 37 of the M6 – would produce enough energy to power 8,100 homes annually and stop around 14,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere every year.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron used a Parliamentary Question to the Department of Energy and Climate Change to call for a new hydro energy strategy with Cumbria at the heart of it.

Mr Farron has asked the Government to provide financial support as well as considering allowing small hydro schemes to be installed under permitted development, with certain caveats attached for marine wildlife and biodiversity.

“Despite the fact that Cumbria has Britain’s fastest flowing waterways, there are only a few working hydro schemes in our county,” said Mr Farron.

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