Councils lose right to set distance limit on wind farms: New guidelines mean …

July 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

  • Blow to anti-wind power campaigners who want to impost limits of around three quarters of a mile
  • Number 10 argue their plans take landscape into account more effectively
  • Guidelines introduced by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles

By
Daniel Martin, Whitehall Correspondent

18:02 EST, 29 July 2013


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18:48 EST, 29 July 2013

Councils will be banned from imposing minimum distance limits that would help protect communities from the scourge of wind farms.

New planning guidance says local authorities will not be able to designate ‘buffer zones’ between properties and turbines.

The document – from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles – said: ‘Distance of itself does not necessarily determine whether the impact of a proposal is unacceptable.’

Eric Pickles

Nick Boles

Opposed: Community Secretary Eric Pickles (left) introduces the new guidelines despite Planning Minister Nick Boles (right) supporting the idea of buffer zones in his constituency

The rules will take effect despite
the fact planning minister Nick Boles last year said he would like to
see such zones implemented in Lincolnshire, where his constituency is
located.

It is a further
blow to anti-wind power campaigners, coming just three months after the
High Court ruled against Milton Keynes Council, which had tried to
impose a limit of three quarters of a mile between turbines and homes.

A
judge came down on the side of energy firm RWE Npower, whose green
division is trying to build two controversial wind farms – including
turbines up to 80ft high – close to residential areas.

Critics
will be furious ministers have failed to take the opportunity to
challenge the court and support buffer zones based on distances.

But
Number 10 and Mr Pickles say Government reforms will give homeowners
greater protection than merely rules based on distance, because they
will take into account landscape and topography.

Campaigners
point out that Denmark – which generates far more of its energy from
wind than the UK – has a legal separation distance of 1.25miles for
large turbines.

Guidelines: Eric Pickles' new document argues that distance is not always the best measure of where to put wind farms in relation to residential areas

Guidelines: Eric Pickles’ new document argues that distance is not always the best measure of where to put wind farms in relation to residential areas

Speaking
after the Milton Keynes court case, anti-wind farm Tory MP Chris
Heaton-Harris said: ‘Local residents should be able to have a say on how
far wind farms are sited from their homes. We do live in a democracy.’

He pointed out the case was rejected on a technicality and that the campaign for separation distances would go on.

Unveiling the guidance yesterday, Mr
Pickles said it would give communities a greater say on the siting of
wind turbines and solar farms. ‘The views of local people must be
listened to when making planning decisions,’ he said.

‘Meeting Britain’s energy needs should not be used to justify the wrong development in the wrong location.’

Campaigners had been hoping for a stronger line on separation distances after Mr Boles said in a Commons debate last year that buffers ‘might be appropriate’ in some areas.

Landscape: The Government's proposal says it takes the topography into account and will stop inappropriate and poorly-placed sites

Landscape: The Government’s proposal says it takes the topography into account and will stop inappropriate and poorly-placed sites

He said he was backing plans by Lincolnshire County Council to bring in a minimum distance of 1.4miles from residential properties.

But the smallprint of the  new planning guidance specifically rules out buffer zones between wind turbines and houses.

It says: ‘Local planning authorities should not rule out otherwise acceptable renewable energy developments through inflexible rules on buffer zones or separation distances.’

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said:  ‘This represents a significant increase in protection for England’s heritage and landscape, ensuring that the local environment and local amenity is given the protection it deserves.

‘The new guidance allows topography to be taken into account, to stop inappropriate and badly sited wind turbines.’

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