New legislation aims to protect North's landscape

NEW legislation will curtail the overall impact of sporadic wind farms that “destroy the landscape”, a Northumberland MP has been told.

NEW legislation will curtail the overall impact of sporadic wind farms that “destroy the landscape”, a Northumberland MP has been told.

Hexham’s Guy Opperman raised the issue as communities minister Mark Prisk set out the Government’s new guidelines on wind turbine planning applications.

A tougher approach will see residents given more powers to block turbines, and force energy companies to pay out more when they do win planning permission.

Mr Opperman yesterday welcomed the news, telling Mr Prisk that he needs to ensure councils such as Northumberland – which have previously failed to get local plans approved – should still follow the advice.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he added: “In Northumberland we have sporadic applications and sporadic wind farms that have no impact other than destroying the landscape in a very bad way.”

Mr Prisk told the MP that he wanted to “ensure that the guidance, as part of the balancing of the new planning policy framework, shows a clear understanding of the issue, especially the cumulative impact, and that that is reflected in the policies in the local plan.”

Also pushing the case was Berwick Lib Dem MP Sir Alan Beith who said that “the beautiful county of Northumberland has a large number of wind farm applications, and that there will be a welcome response for this coalition Government’s recognition that visual and cumulative impact should be more effectively recognised in the system.”

In his statement to MPs the minister said: “To help to ensure that planning decisions reflect the balance in the framework, my department will shortly issue new planning practice guidance to assist local councils and planning inspectors in their consideration of local plans and individual applications.

“Briefly, the guidance will set out, first, that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities.

“Secondly, decisions should take into account the cumulative impact of wind turbines and properly reflect the increasing impact on the landscape and local amenity.

“Thirdly, local topography should be a factor in assessing whether wind turbines have a damaging impact on the landscape. Fourthly, great care should be taken to ensure that heritage assets are conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance, including the impact of proposals on views important to their setting.”

Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods challenged the Government to set out exactly what impact the move would have, calling on Mr Prisk to “tell us what the threshold will be for the more significant applications that will trigger compulsory consultation”.

She was told by the minister: “This will depend on a number of issues. It may be about the scale and number of turbines, but it could also be about the height, size and massing of them.

“Clearly, we do not want to ensnare someone who is thinking of having a small turbine in the back garden. That is not the purpose.”


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