August 7, 2013

Windfarm planning guidance branded ‘a sham’

Grimsby Telegraph | August 08, 2013 |

A new government document designed to give communities more say on wind farm applications has faced early criticism in East Lindsey.

The planning guidance was launched on July 29 to ensure “environmental considerations like landscape and heritage are given proper weight” when authorities are considering planning applications.

But some believe the new advice does not go far enough.

It comes after prominent anti-wind farm campaigner Melvin Grosvenor claimed the district was under “a massive attack” from applications for the renewable energy technology.

Councillor Craig Leyland, portfolio holder for economic development at East Lindsey District Council, said: “Following recent statements implying that the voice of local people would hold more weight in the planning process when determining planning applications, such as those for wind farms, this latest guidance from the Government is a huge disappointment, not just for this council, but also many local people.

“We always knew the devil would be in the detail but this guidance flies in the face of localism and doesn’t help local people one bit.

“It’s a sham that tries to give the illusion of local power in decision making while giving no such powers at all.”

The guidance states that consultations should be done with communities about proposed developments before applications are submitted.

It applies to both wind farms and solar farms, which use rows of solar panels to collect energy from the sun.

The Government also now wants developers to increase the amount they pay to communities when they are planning new schemes by up to five times, compensating residents for local impact.

The document also states councils will not be able to put a limit on how close turbines are built to properties.

Councillor Leyland explained in recent years his authority had spent £500,000 fighting wind farm developments.

And he added the council would continue to consider each planning application “on its own merits”, taking into account the impact on “the local environment and communities”.

According to East Lindsey District Council, it is dealing with planning applications and scoping inquiries for 12 separate large-turbine wind farms.

The schemes range in scale, from a cluster of nine 81m structures in Orby to a group of ten 130m turbines in Grainthorpe.

It is not clear if a plan for four turbines to be built at Wainfleet could still go ahead after the developer ran out of time to appeal following a decision to refuse an initial application in January.

James Pocklington, of the Lincolnshire Pro Wind Alliance, said he thought councils were “yet to display a responsible attitude” to onshore wind farms.”

However, he believes the new guidance is “batting the ball back to local authorities” and “asking them to behave responsibly” in matters relating to renewable energy.

He said: “My hope is that our councillors take note of the guidance and sensibly balance the important environmental and financial benefits of onshore wind turbines against their localised impact.”

Lincolnshire County Council, which already has a “tough stance” on wind farms, welcomed the new guidance.

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