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Giving evidence against wind farm buffer zones

The Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance (WCEA) gave evidence last week at the Planning Inspector’s hearing on the Wiltshire Core Strategy. Under scrutiny was one of the most controversial local policies: mandatory separation distances between wind turbines and houses.

Our presence was the culmination of a campaign we launched almost a year ago after a last-minute change to the Core Strategy imposed minimum buffers of 3km for large wind turbines. Wind is a key renewable technology for Wiltshire, and we believe this is unsound planning policy, not supported by any evidence.

Others who joined us in speaking up for wind power were the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Chippenham MP Duncan Hames. Another somewhat unlikely ally was the Campaign for the Protection for Rural England, who clearly recognise the unfairness of the amendment. Defending the council’s policy was a cohort of Wiltshire Council officers whose jobs, of course, require them to do so.

The WCEA presented evidence from RegenSW which showed that if the buffer zones are allowed to stand the only part of Wiltshire that might be suitable for commercial-scale 2.5 MW wind turbines is a tiny triangle of woodland next to a bridleway in the south of the county.

So, without large-scale wind, how could Wiltshire fill the huge gap between its current very low levels of renewable generation and its aspiration of 367MW (30% by 2020)?

That was the key question for the Inspector, who asked the council officers to provide evidence on this no less than five times during the hearing. Something they were unable to do.

The WCEA made a strong case that wind farm planning applications should be considered on a case-by-case basis in line with national planning policy. And that there’s no evidence to suggest Wiltshire should be treated any differently from the rest of the country.

The Core Strategy Examination in Public last until 18th July 2013. We’ll have to wait several months for the results to be published. In the meantime, all forms of wind development – both commercial and community – are stymied. That is a great shame. But in the end we hope we will have a stronger policy in Wiltshire that will set an important precedent for other local authorities.

Sophy Fearnley-Whittingstall is co-founder and coordinator of the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance which campaigns for fair planning policies for renewables.

No wind power for Wiltshire if controversial policy is allowed to stand

No wind power for Wiltshire if controversial policy is allowed to stand

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