Some years ago, I pledged that I would do all I can to prevent the construction of onshore wind farms.
The Lune Valley has been besieged by wind farm applications that not only blight what is some of the most beautiful countryside in the United Kingdom but also have a negative impact on people’s lives.
I have had meetings with residents who are angry that wind farms are to be constructed close to their homes, which as they say in their own words is ‘not a nice prospect’.
Behind the scenes, I have been working with a Parliamentary colleague Chris Heaton-Harris. Chris is the Member of Parliament for Daventry and, like me, is opposed to, notably, onshore wind farms.
Chris wrote a letter last year to the Prime Minister, which I signed.
Along the way we have had successes in preventing wind farm applications although it has to be said that often it has been as a result of the Ministry of Defence objecting and, on some occasions, public outcry.
Sadly, there has never been a clear cut way of knowing if an application would succeed or would not succeed.
This has proven to be highly frustrating for me, for planners and, most importantly, for residents.
At one point I tried desperately to extend the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to ensure that wind farms would not be constructed in my constituency.
I am very pleased to tell you that two weeks ago the Government announced that planners were to be given new guidance that should be applied when deciding to grant or not to grant planning consent to a wind farm application.
In the word of Chris: “Perhaps Thursday, June 6, will go down in history as the day which signalled the beginning of the end of unwanted onshore wind turbines across England.”
What does the guidance mean? The key point is that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has expressly told planners that the need for renewable energy will not automatically override environmental concerns, or the feelings of the local community and will give greater weight to landscape and visual impact concerns.
In short, planners will need to take into consideration the residents directly affected by the proposed wind farm application and crucially, whether a wind farm is in keeping with the landscape.
I would argue that generally wind farms, especially of the size and quantity that have been proposed in the Lune Valley, are not in keeping, nor welcome, there.
Of course there will be pro wind farm campaigners who will disagree, by arguing that wind farms produce lots of green energy.
In response I would say this. Heysham 1 & 2 nuclear power stations in my constituency produces between four and five per cent of the national grid’s electricity.
In 2011 wind power produced around three per cent of the UK’s electricity supply.
In addition to creating more green electricity, Heysham creates jobs and prosperity in my constituency.
Wind farms create a blight and much misery to the people who have to look at them daily.
Should communities be satisfied that proposed wind farms will not blight their landscape, the DCLG proposal has also factored in greater benefits for local communities.
The industry will be expected to revise its Community Benefit Protocol by the end of the year, to include an increase in the recommended community benefit package in England from £1,000/MW of installed capacity per year, to £5,000/MW/year for the lifetime of the windfarm.
Communities agreeing a medium-sized 20MW wind farm could, therefore, receive a package of benefits worth £100,000 per year, or up to £400 a year off each household’s annual bill.
David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale
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