Britain’s rural landscape is in danger of being overrun by wind farms unless the government introduces more strategic wind development rules to protect the countryside.
A report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England says huge growth in turbine planning applications across parts of the country are damaging valued landscapes and leaving communities feeling powerless to stop them.
While it recognises the need for wind power to help reduce carbon emissions and supply the country’s renewable energy needs, the report says too many turbines are being sited in inappropriate locations.
It says the government had promised not to let big businesses “wantonly plant wind farms at random”, yet many communities were faced with an unending stream of applications from developers who were often dismissive of public concerns.
Published on Monday (30 April), the Generating light on landscape impacts report says flaws in the planning process mean some regions’ capacity for turbines has been over-exceeded.
It says Cornwall has 94 turbines over 30 metres tall in operation, with a further 18 consented and 11 in planning, while County Durham has 60 operational turbines, 27 under construction, 19 consented and six in planning.
The countryside in Northumberland and Northamptonshire is also at risk of being inundated by turbines, it adds.
Calling on the govnerment to set out a plan for the total number of onshore wind turbines, CPRE’s report says the UK needs a framework to decide its wind power strategy.
It says local planning authroties should be handed the decisions over whether to allow turbines to be built and that “significant weight” should be given to local plans which attempt to identify inapproproate areas for wind development.
Shaun Spiers, CPRE chief executive, said public support for wind turbines as a measure to tackle climate change risked being damaged if communities conitnued to feel powerless against big, well-funded developers.
“It is right that the countryside should play its part in supplying the renewable energy the country needs, but we must find a way of reconciling climate change mitigation and landscape protection,” he said.
“In spite of localist rhetoric, the industrialisation of valued countryside is happening as a result of central government policies.
“The government must take responsibility and set out far more clearly a framework for meeting the country’s energy needs while protecting our matchless countryside.”