DOUBTS were voiced yesterday over whether new moves to protect families against the impact of wind farms near their homes go far enough.
Council officials in Northumberland have responded to a growing public clamour to come up with a minimum separation zone between large turbines and people’s houses.
In a major new planning policy blueprint, County Hall officials say there should be a presumption against turbines being built within a distance of six times their blade tip height from nearest residential properties.
In the case of an industrial-size machine of 126 metres, it would mean a separation zone of 756 metres, and 480 metres for a smaller 80-metre turbine.
The recommended limit is much less than the 2km separation zone proposed by Milton Keynes Council, which has sparked a High Court judicial review by leading green energy company RWE Npower Renewables.
Yesterday doubts were expressed over whether Northumberland’s proposed limit is tough enough to properly protect householders, given the large number of turbines already approved across the county.
Cornhill farmer Andrew Joicey, who has campaigned against wind farms in the Berwick area, said: “I’m pleased that the council has started talking about separation distances, but I don’t think myself that this proposal is nearly enough, and would result in some pretty unacceptable situations.
“I hope that they would greatly enlarge that minimum distance when there are numbers of houses involved. This recommendation would, I fear, still result in clustering and cumulative impact of wind farms too close to houses.”
Dr James Lunn, who spearheaded the recent successful campaign against plans to build five 126 metre-high turbines near the hamlet of Fenrother, said there was clear evidence of significant health impacts from larger turbines up to 1,500 metres from homes.
“Initially, I’m enthusiastic that the council has recognised there should be a minimum separation distance, but I don’t think it should be a blanket policy. We think this is a starting point, but if Milton Keynes is successful (in having a 2km limit), I think we would be calling for the same level of protection in Northumberland.”
The recommendation is contained in the council’s new draft core strategy which, when approved, will set out the planning policies to guide development in Northumberland until 2030. Last year a public consultation on the strategy resulted in the vast majority of respondents calling for clear guidelines on how far turbines should be built from homes.
The draft strategy, which will be discussed by the executive next week prior to a further public consultation period, says, with advances in technology, wind turbines are increasing in size, and their potential impacts are greater.
It says: “To protect residential amenity, and reflecting support for separation distances, there will be a presumption against wind turbine development within a distance of six times the turbine blade tip height of residential properties.”
Last night a council spokeswoman said the recommended separation distance is in line with the approach taken by other planning authorities, including Durham. The report to the executive says it is not considered appropriate to set Northumberland-specific targets for renewable energy generation in the core strategy.
Glen Sanderson, deputy leader of the council’s Conservatives, said his group favoured a 2km separation distance, but the recommendation in the draft core strategy was a “fantastic first step.” He said: “I’m extremely pleased that the council has addressed our concerns, and those of the overwhelming majority of residents, that a separation distance is a crucial factor in this whole argument. The detail of the distance can wait, because there are examples elsewhere in the country which we should look at.”