A government minister’s warning that opponents of wind farms should not be “ridden roughshod over” have been welcomed by campaigners in the region.
Planning minister Nick Boles has reportedly told energy minister John Hayes that “local people have genuine concerns” and that “wind farms are not appropriate in all settings”.
He has furthermore warned his colleague that people “bitterly resent” having onshore wind farm developments imposed on them by planners after an inquiry.
Mr Boles’ words were last night welcomed by two men who have campaigned against wind farms in Northumberland, which many people feel has accommodated more than its fair share of turbine development. In a private letter to his fellow Conservative, Mr Boles is reported to have said: “We should be working with communities rather than seemingly riding roughshod over their concerns.
“Proposals allowed on appeal by planning inspectors can be bitterly resented.
“We have been very clear that the Government’s policies on renewable energy are no excuse for building wind farms in the wrong places.
“We need a package of measures that can command broad public support which is consistent with our emphasis on local and neighbourhood planning which puts local communities in the driving seat.
“We should be quite clear that local communities and their accountable councils can produce their own distinctive plans to help shape where developments should and should not take place.”
Last August, the Newcastle and Northumberland Society claimed 120 turbines had already been built or approved in the county – more than any other English county – and that at the time a further 21 had been applied for, with almost 150 at the pre-application stage.
Last night, Dr James Lunn, who has been fighting plans for a wind farm at Fenrother near Morpeth, welcomed the planning minister’s words.
He said: “I certainly think there was a major deal of damage by a feeling of imposition of wind farms on communities, and the feeling that views are not being listened to.
“That causes a lot of damage to trust the local people have in a council.
“What a lot of people want is a clear and transparent process which local people have fed in to. In Northumberland we are starting to feel the council is listening to the residents. It is such an important issue that I think all parties are beginning to engage with communities.” John Thompson, chairman of the Wingates not Wind Farms action group, which has fought a series of proposals around that hamlet, added: “It actually seems to be somebody coming to the realisation that people do matter.
“It has been the case that we have had wind farms imposed on us both by developers and at times by the planners themselves for whatever reason, whatever agenda.
“For whatever reason the planners seem to have a presumption in favour of wind farm development. The harm normally falls on the local people and local businesses.”