CAUTIOUS WELCOME TO WIND FARM GUIDANCE
By Gavin Moore
While campaigners in south Northants welcome a move which gives a greater say over wind farm proposals, they were remaining cautious.
This week communities secretary Eris Pickles proposed new planning guidelines which reduce the dominance of national renewable energy over local opinions and landscapes.
Keith Jones has been fighting proposals for a wind farm near his village for the last three years as chairman of the Helmdon, Stutchbury and Greatworth Wind Action Group (HSGWAG).
HSGWAG is preparing to back South Northants Council in a second enquiry into proposals for five turbines at Spring Ridge farm, just off B4525/Welsh Lane by Broadview Energy. They want to build five 125m high turbines, some of which could be less than 600m from the nearest homes.
Mr Jones said: “The statement says there is going to be more weight given to local opinion on wind farm proposals, and that is to be welcomed, particularly in our case where the community has been very firm and focused on what it wants. But at the moment it is just a statement and we will need to see the detail.”
Mr Jones said it could be a double-edged sword as the guidelines also require wind farm developers to make a greater financial contribution to communities hosting turbines.
He added: “It talks about wind projects giving five times the amount money they currently give to communities.
“The problem is we have never known what level Broadview are starting from. And also what is a community? Is it just Helmdon, Stutchbury and Greatworth? Or does it include Sulgrave and Halse, and what about the rest of south Northants?”
The battle for Spring Ridge
March 2010 – Broadview carry out pre-planning consultation with local residents
October 2010 – They submit planning application to SNC
July 2011 – SNC refuse planning permission
2012 - Planning Inspector upholds appeal by Broadview
November 2012 – High Court upholds appeal by SNC
April 2013 – Second public enquiry set for October 2013
Residents east of Towcester are also fighting proposals by wind firm Gamesa who want to build up to eight 126m high turbines in the Tove Valley.
A spokesman for the Tove Action Group (TAG) broadly welcomed the new guidelines but recognised the potential for controversy as communities become divided over the impact of increased developer contributions.
She added: “For communities which have got or will have wind farms in their midst such benefits are some level of compensation. But this is not the only consideration and for communities who remain fundamentally opposed on grounds of environmental and landscape impact, such sweeteners make little or no difference.
What the new guidance will hopefully do is put power back in the hands of local communities to decide on the location of wind farms that will affect them for year to come.”
The Brackley & Towcester Advertiser – 07 June, 2013