Civic Trust bosses in York have attacked the city council’s proposed wind farm policy.
The Trust says the identification of 29 potential sites for wind farms in the draft local plan is based on an outdated report by an energy industry company – AEA Technology – with a “vested interest”.
In the three years since that report was written, understanding of renewable energy, especially regarding wind farms and turbines, had changed significantly, Civic Trust director Peter Brown said.
He said: “Without large subsidies from Government, the economic model makes little sense.”
The Civic Trust is worried about the impact of wind farms on York’s skyline and on views of the Minster.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, York was surrounded by windmills, Mr Brown conceded, but none was higher than 30 metres, he said – less than half the height of York Minster.
Any wind farms in the North, East and West of York would damage views of the Minster, and should be removed from consideration, Mr Brown said. He also said no turbines should be higher than 45 metres.
Mr Brown said a map showing the 29 potential sites was misleading because it did not show nearby villages. He said many proposed sites were near villages including Askham Bryan, Knapton, Stockton-on-the-Forest and Holtby.
He said the Trust was also concerned about the impact of wind farms on local communities, citing “increasing evidence” of health issues for those near turbines. He said York should set a buffer zone, possibly of 1,000 metres, between turbines and homes, as Carmarthenshire County Council has done.
Mr Brown said the Trust recognised the need for renewable energy sources, including turbines where appropriate.
Coun Dave Merrett, council cabinet member for planning and sustainability, said: “It is made clear in the document that proposals would only be allowed if it could be demonstrated that there will be no significant adverse impacts on landscape character, setting, views, heritage assets and green belt objectives and demonstrate benefits for local communities.”
He urged people to have their say in the eight-week Local Plan consultation.
He also said renewable energy could make a valuable contribution to tackling climate change and securing a long-term energy mix, and said the turbines report took account of natural resources and constraints, although any firm proposals will go through the normal planning process.
Each potential location was identified through extensive study and was considered through an all-party group before 2010, he said.