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UK: As the Tide Turns on Wind Farms, What is Causing this Wind of Change?

Brian Daniel — The Journal — August 27, 2014

A growing number of wind farm proposals in Northumberland are being refused amid an apparent turning of the tide

You don’t have to go back too far to a time when you couldn’t open The Journal without reading about residents Northumberland begging for mercy from an onslaught of wind turbines.

People in the county adopted a siege mentality as figures time and again proved that they were being made to live with more wind farms than elsewhere in the country. Planning application after planning application seemed to be nodded through despite their desperate pleas.

Indeed new figures from Northumberland County Council show that the authority has approved 80 out of 98 wind related proposals in the last three years.

In 2012, Dr James Lunn, who was involved in a fight to halt plans for generators near his Fenrother home, not far from Morpeth, said: “We need both a national and Northumberland policy to protect settlements, because we can’t rely on the county council planning department to protect us.

“They seem to believe there is no upper limit for the number of wind farms that can be considered.”

Back to the present and the wind of change seems to have blown through the whole vexed issue on onshore wind.

Only recently proposals for wind turbines at Dr Lunn’s village, at a site close to the Duddo Stone Circle and Flodden battlefield have been rejected or approvals quashed.

And the brakes are being applied by the Government, namely the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Another scheme at Rayburn Lake has also been recommended for refusal by council officers although a decision has been deferred.

But what is behind the turning tide? Is it a recognition that Northumberland has had enough as residents would argue?

Or is it as a growing number of commentators in the industry believe, politics at play?

Many believe that the DCLG and its boss Eric Pickles is acting out of a desire to appease rank and file Conservative voters, who rightly or wrongly are associated with an anti-wind stance.

The minister created the new planning guidance, so sought by Dr Lunn, which decreed that the importance of renewable energy should not automatically override the views of communities.

Mr Pickles himself issued the final say on appeal decisions – including Fenrother and the Flodden scheme – in order to ensure that guidance was being followed.

Those behind the wind farms are becoming used to disappointment.

Jennifer Webber, spokesman for RenewableUK, the self proclaimed voice of wind energy, said: “The vast majority of people in the North East support more onshore wind with polling last year finding that three quarters of people in the North East would support more wind farms in the area they live.

“Polling consistently shows that people are in favour of onshore wind, so it’s unfortunate that the secretary of state for communities and local government is trying to block schemes, based on a misguided belief that such an approach will be popular with voters.

“Each megawatt of installed onshore wind brings in £100,000 of income to the local community over its lifetime, and it’s a shame communities are missing out on this.”

The organisation’s claims about the popularity of wind will no doubt surprise its opponents in the wide open spaces of the North East.

The claim that Mr Pickles is seeking to appease his voters is disputed by one Conservative in Northumberland.

County councillor for Longhorsley Glen Sanderson, who was a vocal opponent of the Fenrother scheme, said: “I think that would be far from the truth, it is not just Conservative voters who feel strongly about the impact that wind farms have on our very sensitive parts of the country.  Continue reading here…

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