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Our struggle is about protecting our landscape  

Credit:  Hull Daily Mail | June 11, 2013 | www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk ~~

Not so long ago, the letter would arrive from the Planning Inspectorate and those campaigning against the latest wind farm would sigh in resignation.

Yet again, the decision would be found in favour of the developer.

With monotonous consistency, the planning inspector would cite “national policy on renewable energy” as the reason for upholding the appeal.

This was the case for six public inquiries involving East Riding Council, which had to fork out a total of £360,000 in legal costs.

It was close to becoming a case of simply letting them through to save money.

But residents have continued to fight tooth and nail against the proliferation of turbines in rural areas of East Yorkshire.

Now, new Government guidance has been published, meaning residents’ concerns will take precedence over the requirement to provide renewable energy.

Alan McLean, a seasoned campaigner from the No To Wolds Turbine group, said: “This is very good and I am really pleased.

“The devil will be in the detail but it all seems very positive.

“The apparent energy needs have overpowered everything up until now.

“It is now clear the EU targets everyone was working towards are arbitrary and we already have enough turbines to meet those targets anyway.

“A relaxation of these targets has to be a good thing.”

Mr McLean hopes it will allow planning officers more freedom in making their recommendations.

“This change of emphasis will make it easier for planning officers to make more robust recommendations to the committee,” Mr McLean said.

“Previously, they have had to follow the planning regulations and recommend approval for many wind farm schemes regardless of the impact on residents.”

The new package of measures will also increase the amount of money communities receive if wind farms are built.

Developers will be expected to give residents five times what they currently pay for allowing turbines in their area. The increase is from £1,000 per megawatt of installed power to £5,000.

As a rough guide, a medium-sized wind farm with about ten turbines is likely to mean community benefits of about £100,000 a year or see up £400 cut from each household’s bill.

But Mr McLean has reservations about increasing community benefits, which he sees as little more than bribes.

“These community benefits are basically an admission that turbines are a blight on a community and the developer needs to give something back,” he said.

“My concern is that only those nearest to the turbines get a say and, in these hard times, may be tempted by the short-term monetary gain and sacrifice the long-term impact on the area as a whole.

“In some areas, the number of immediate neighbours who need to be consulted may be fewer than ten, but it could affect tourism business and others further away.”

David Hinde, of Bempton, near Bridlington, has been a leading force in the public campaign against wind turbines.

“It’s not about targets anymore, it’s about protecting our landscape,” he said.

“The announcement is good news, it’s extremely encouraging to see what appears to be a major change.

“Now the proof will be in the pudding. We’ll be looking for evidence in the inspectors’ decisions.”

East Riding Council’s planning committee has seen nine applications overturned and only two or three upheld on appeal.

The legal bill has now amounted to about £630,000 of taxpayers’ money.

The straw that almost broke the camel’s back came in January when a planning inspector granted permission for nine 130m turbines in Fraisthorpe, near Bridlington.

Villagers, East Riding Council and the area’s MP all raised concerns. Had this week’s new Government rules been in place then, it seems unlikely permission would have been granted on such a sensitive site on Yorkshire’s Heritage Coast.

It was not until January 2011 that a planning inspector finally dismissed a wind farm development on appeal.

Energie Kontor wanted to build three turbines on land in Hogsea Lane, Roos, near Withernsea, but they were rejected in a surprise move.

More such decisions are expected under the new guidelines.

Jackie Cracknell was a seasoned campaigner against wind farms while a member of the Tunstall Residents’ Association.

She is now an East Riding councillor and portfolio holder for community involvement and performance.

The association was fighting three developments close by at Monkwith, Sunderland Farm and Tedder Hill.

“As a residents’ association, we had to gain third-party status at the inquiry so we could actually present evidence and call witnesses,” Ms Cracknell said.

“But this also meant we were in danger of incurring costs which could run into thousands of pounds.

“We were ready to remortgage our homes if necessary.

“Luckily, we were successful with Monkwith.

“We had expertise and almost acted as a legal team. It is quite a process to go through.

“I hope it works more smoothly with the changes, but the proof is in the pudding.”

But Cllr Cracknell believes more needs to be done to really slow down the proliferation of turbines.

“There has been too much incentivisation of the wind power industry,” she said.

“This needs to be stopped if developers are to be discouraged.

“I do hope the latest changes will make the process more democratic but I hope the system doesn’t become even more complicated.”

Source:  Hull Daily Mail | June 11, 2013 | www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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