Category Archives: Energy
Words fail me. This policy would ban windfarms everywhere but the middle of Sailbury Plain, where presumably falling blades will kill squaddies!
The motion passed by Wiltshire council would ban the erection of turbines within three kilometres of a home for turbines taller than 150m and two kilometres for those over 100m. The council cited “the interests of residential amenity, including safety”, referring to the danger of falling blades. Lincolnshire passed a similar motion unanimously, but in Wiltshire, the LibDems opposed it.
“I was very disappointed that anyone voted against it,” said councillor Toby Sturgis, cabinet member for the environment. “I was quite amazed that people want to compromise on safety. We need these guidelines to go forward.”
But LibDem councillor Simon Killane said: “These kinds of statements are completely ill-advised. Where is the evidence? It’s a small-minded political stunt.”
Of course unlike Wiltshire unlike Lincolnshire is an LPA. Cant wait for the first appeal mentioning such wimsical policy.
To my mind though any planning policy not put forward through the LDF/local plan process is illegal. Firstly the 2004 act states that all planning policy must be part of the LDF and also that prior consultation and SEA is needed before it can be become part of the LDF. This argument is often used, I have used it myself, to rule that motions for ad hoc policy changes would be ulrtra vires. Wiltshire should get a good legal opinion and report it back to the Full Council. Before the policy becomes expensive and the council become a laughing stock.
Windfarms ‘the one objection that is not dishonest? It is: “I don’t like the look of them.” Damien Carrington
So what’s the one objection that is not dishonest? It is: “I don’t like the look of them.” As I have reported before, I accept that argument is a valid one in some locations, though I’d note the planning system already turns down plenty of wind farm applications and that more community ownership could resolve the stand-off. But accepting the argument that an “ugly” wind farm should not be built also requires accepting the fact that it will raise energy bills.
Here here. Days, sometimes weeks of evidence is spend on reargusing issues of national energy policy which are irrelevant and out of the scope of the inspector’s powers. The arguments are confusing becaus the political discourse on this is confusing. But published policy has not changed and is clear.
If these were national infrastructure projects inspectors would be tough, outside of the scope of the inquiry. So why not be similarly tough at T&CP Section 68 appeals? Why not simply rule out of order all and every piece of evidence relating to energy policy, subsidies and energy prices. All that is relevant in planning terms terms relating to output is carbon savings.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones (letter, 5 June) is wrong to say that CPRE’s “opposition” to wind turbines is “becoming irrationally anti-environmental”.
Onshore wind poses a genuinely difficult challenge to those who want to tackle climate change but also want to prevent unacceptable damage to our beautiful countryside. As your Environment Editor Michael McCarthy says (“Ghastly, lethal to birds – but a necessary evil“, 4 June), this is an issue “where both sides have right on their side”.
Within CPRE we are having a serious debate about the role of onshore wind and how we can ensure that, in McCarthy’s words, “turbines only go in the appropriate place”. It would be good if that debate could take place more widely.
Instead we have a policy framework that gives precious little guidance on the right and wrong places for onshore wind. The consequence is that energy companies and landowners take a punt on local authorities and planning inspectors deciding that national targets trump concerns about heritage or landscape. Local communities faced with giant wind turbines in much- loved countryside feel increasingly powerless, and the growing backlash against onshore wind risks undermining other necessary action to tackle climate change.
Chief Executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England, London SE1
Councillors urge greater caution on wind farms
Lincolnshire County Council’s Environmental Scrutiny Committee has today recommended that the authority takes a stronger position on wind farms.
Cllr Colin Davie, chairman of the committee, said:
“Lincolnshire’s attractive landscape, its coastal and historic areas are the cornerstone of our tourism industry. A proliferation of wind farms would not only have a severe impact on the natural environment, it could also seriously jeopardise a major sector of our economy.
“Similarly, we think it’s unf air for residential areas to be blighted by wind farms, and are particularly concerned about the long-term damage caused to county roads during the construction and decommissioning of turbines.
“On top of this, onshore wind turbines are one of the least efficient ways of producing electricity. The fact that these developments are subsidised through energy bills is also contributing to the increase in ‘fuel poverty’, which currently affects a quarter of county homes.
“For these reasons, we’re recommending the county council resists the creation of any new wind farms in the county, and urge any company wishing to start a development here to think twice.”
The recommendation comes following additional new local and national policies and studies. The proposed new position on wind farms will now be considered by the county council’s executive members on 6 June.
Winds of change
First, the High Court declared victory for the Norfolk villagers of Hemsby in their battle to prevent ugly, inefficient wind farms being built on their doorstep.
Now Tory-controlled Lincolnshire County Council is to change planning laws so there is a ‘presumption against wind turbine developments on the grounds of negative cumulative visual impact’.
Indeed, even George Osborne is said to be getting cold feet, and is thinking of cutting the vast subsidies devoured by the hugely expensive, landscape-destroying monstrosities.
The Chancellor should get on with it. The Coalition’s gimmicky, image-obsessed ‘green’ energy policy has done quite enough damage already.
Seven people in 10 want more wind farms built across the countryside to meet Britain’s energy needs – despite a high-profile political backlash which jeopardises their future.
The Treasury is considering cuts of up to 25 per cent in subsidies for on-shore wind farms after intense lobbying from countryside campaigners and rural Conservative MPs.
Critics claim that the turbines – many built in picturesque places – cause significant noise pollution and would be economically unviable without such large government handouts.
But a ComRes poll for The Independent reveals surprisingly strong public support for wind farms: 68 per cent of the public believe that new wind farms are “an acceptable price to pay” for greener energy in the future.
Younger people are more supportive than older, with almost 80 per cent of those aged between 18 and 44 backing wind farms, compared with 59 per cent of those aged 45 and over.
The findings will encourage the Liberal Democrats, traditionally greenest of the three main parties, who are determined the Coalition does not falter in its drive for more renewable energy.
The ComRes survey results run counter to recent developments which have seen conservation charities, such as the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, come out against the proliferation of wind farms in the countryside.
Last week a High Court judge ruled that villagers’ right to preserve their landscape was more important than the Government’s renewable energy targets.
Lincolnshire County Council is planning to use the judgment to become the first county council in Britain to prevent wind farms being built in its area, and more local anti-wind moves are expected. The growing sense of revolt is making itself felt within the Tory party – more than 100 Tory MPs wrote to David Cameron in February calling for a cut in the £400m-a-year subsidy for onshore wind farms, warning that they blight the countryside.
At the weekend it was reported that the Chancellor, George Osborne, is responding to back bench pressure over the issue by planning major cuts in the subsidies of up to 25 per cent.
Yet our poll shows that beyond rural communities, which are directly affected, and the Conservative back benches, wind turbines remain remarkably popular. Some 68 per cent of people agree with the statement, “Building new wind farms is an acceptable price to pay for greener energy in the future”, while 23 per cent disagree. and 9 per cent are “don’t knows”.
The younger generations are more likely to agree than older people. Some 79 per cent of those aged between 18 and 44 agree, compared with 59 per cent of those aged 45 and over.
There are also differences on party lines. Some 70 per cent of people who voted Liberal Democrat at the 2010 general election and 69 per cent of Labour voters agree that that wind farms are an acceptable price to pay, a view shared by only 58 per cent of Conservative voters. And 72 per cent of those in London and the South-east agree, compared with 68 per cent in the North of England, 67 per cent in the Midlands, and 63 per cent in Wales and the South-west.
The ComRes findings will encourage the Liberal Democrats, traditionally the greenest of the three main parties who, led by Energy Secretary Ed Davey, successor to the robustly pro-wind Chris Huhne, are determined that the Coalition does not water down its renewable energy drive.
Mr Davey is likely to be directly at odds with Mr Osborne inside the Cabinet, as Mr Huhne was before him, over the Chancellor’s attempt to cut wind subsidies, in response to growing pressure within the Conservative party (and back bench anger at the list of budget U-turns).
Wind farm opponents are riding the crest of a wave. They were jubilant last week when Mrs Justice Lang ruled that the Government’s renewable energy targets did not outweigh the right of the villagers of Hemsby in Norfolk to preserve their landscape.
The judge said that building four 350ft turbines, a proposal from the company Sea & Land Power and Energy which had already been rejected by both council and government inspectors, would harm the character and appearance of the beauty spot on the edge of the Norfolk Broads.
There are 3,144 onshore wind turbines in Britain, in just over 300 wind farms, with another 500 turbines offshore.
Rob Norris, a spokesman for RenewableUK, the trade association representing the wind industry, said: “This poll is evidence of the true level of support for wind energy in the UK. Although there’s a vociferous minority who don’t support renewable energy, the better-informed majority understand the many benefits.”
Err Linconshire is not an LPA and a blanket ban would be of course illeagal as the case stressed that each case would have to be judged on their merits in terms of the weight to be given to energy and local landscape issues in the circumstances.
Plans for dramatic cuts in government subsidies for onshore windfarms are being drawn up by the Treasury in a move that seriously underminesDavid Cameron‘s claim to be running “the greenest government ever”.
The Observer has learned that George Osborne is demanding cuts of 25% in subsidies, a reduction the industry says would “kill dead” the development of wind power sites. The Treasury’s stance has put the chancellor at loggerheads with the Liberal Democrat energy secretary Ed Davey, whose party strongly supports more renewable energy.
Osborne, whose reputation has taken a dive following his widely criticised budget and a subsequent string of U-turns, has been under heavy pressure from Tory MPs to reduce the billions spent on green commitments.
In February more than 100 Conservative backbenchers wrote to the prime minister demanding cuts to the £400m a year public subsidies for windfarms which they see as evidence of too much Lib Dem influence over coalition policy…
Tim Yeo, Tory chairman of the all-party energy and climate change select committee, said the Treasury and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), which is headed by Davey, were following different agendas. “This is an example of where Decc’s attempts to stimulate renewable energy are being hampered by Treasury intervention,” he said. “The way to deal with this – and realise the savings the Treasury wants to achieve – is to have more onshore renewable energy, which requires lower levels of subsidy, and less offshore, which requires more. We need to change the balance.”
Critics accuse the chancellor of pandering to Conservative backbenchers who do not want turbines built in their constituencies, believing they will damage their prospects of re-election. They argue the cuts make no economic sense, because alternatives, such as siting the turbines in the sea, would be much more expensive. “This is a reckless act of political opportunism by a chancellor keen to boost his popularity among his backbench MPs,” said Juliet Davenport, chief executive of renewable electricity supplier Good Energy.
However, Chris Heaton-Harris, a Tory MP who led the backbench campaign for cuts, said he was greatly encouraged. “I want to see a dramatic cut,” he said, arguing that onshore wind power was expensive compared with gas and that it would drive up fuel poverty.
However, proponents of wind power point to rocketing gas prices and the air pollution and climate change benefits of renewable energy technologies, of which onshore wind is the cheapest.
“It is crackers to kill dead the deployment of the cheapest renewable technology if you genuinely are worried about the cost,” said Gordon Edge, policy director at industry group RenewableUK. A source at one of Britain’s big six energy companies said: “It’s perverse – you get less renewable energy bang for your buck. It only makes sense if you don’t like windfarms in your constituency.”
After becoming party leader in 2005, Cameron adopted the slogan “vote blue, go green” as he made the environment the centrepiece of his drive to modernise the Conservatives. Shortly after entering a coalition with the Lib Dems he promised to lead the “greenest government ever”, adding that “nowhere are long-term decisions more needed than actually in the fields of energy and climate change and environment”.
But Osborne has made clear that he does not believe the green agenda can remain a priority when cash is short and the deficit needs to be reduced. With his own political fortunes on the slide, Tory MPs believe he can be persuaded to back their anti-green campaigns. This year the government angered green campaigners by announcing plans to slash subsidies for solar energy, a move the industry roundly condemned.
There are more than 3,000 wind turbines in the UK countryside and the debate has become more polarised in the past two years, with a tripling of local opposition. However, a large majority of the public remains in favour of wind power, even if it is placed within a few miles of their home.
The Treasury declined to comment, but a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which runs the subsidy scheme, said: “It is vital that our support for renewable electricity both encourages investment and represents value for money for consumers. The government will publish the new support levels shortly.”
According to sources, the decision has been delayed by the Treasury “crawling all over” the new rates put forward by Davey.
Decc’s initial proposal in October, delayed by wrangling, was for a 10% cut in the support for onshore wind under a scheme called the “renewables obligation”. But the Observer was told the Treasury has demanded a 25% cut.
“The delay means the whole of the UK’s renewables investment portfolio is being jeopardised by Osborne’s pandering to Tory backbenchers,” said a source. “It is total prioritisation of politics over the economic interests of the country.”
Davenport said: “The 10% proposal was the product of independently commissioned analysis by Decc. If the Treasury swoops in at the last minute and shortcuts that process, the credibility of the government’s renewables policy will be in tatters, along with the prime minister’s claim to be the greenest government ever. Of course, some might argue that is precisely what the chancellor wants to achieve.”
The setting of subsidy levels is a negotiation between industry and government, according to Michael Liebrich, chief executive of analysts Bloomberg New Energy Finance, who made an influential presentation to David Cameron and the world’s leading energy ministers in May.
“If you cut too fast, you damage the industry and the supply chain, but if you go too slow, you create subsidy junkies,” he said.
Liebrich’s presentation showed the global average cost of onshore wind was falling, but he said using that to justify cuts in the UK was wrong: “Just because the best windfarms in the world are competitive [with gas] does not mean the average ones are yet.” He added that large scales, fast planning and good grid connections made US windfarms much cheaper than those in the UK.
There are 320 onshore windfarms in UK, a third of them in England. Many more are awaiting construction or planning permission.
The UK could meet a fifth of its power needs – the equivalent of nine nuclear power stations – by exploiting geothermal power, a new report into the technology has found.
But the report found that the current subsidy regime does not provide sufficient incentive to develop the technology in the UK – even as Charles Hendry, minister of state at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, flew to Iceland on Wednesday afternoon and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with his Icelandic counterpart Oddný G. Harðardóttir to explore a possible new interconnector that could be used to import geothermal electricity from the country’s volcanoes.
Geothermal power stations use water pumped down to hot rocks under the earth that returns to the surface heated, fuelling electricity generation or to be used for space heating.
There are promising sites for geothermal power spread throughout the UK, from Cornwall to the Lake District, East Yorkshire, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Another plus is that geothermal power, while renewable and low-carbon, can provide baseload electricity. That means it can be used to back up intermittent sources of renewable energy such as wind and sun. The study found geothermal could supply 9.5GW of electricity, about 20% of current demand, but also 100GW of heat, which would be enough for the whole of the UK’s space heating needs. The government has struggled to encourage the take-up of renewable forms of heat, such as wood-fired boilers and underground heat pumps.
However, geothermal power receives a relatively low level of subsidy – less than that offered to wave and tidal power, and less than that offered in rival countries such as Germany and Switzerland – according to the report, commissioned by the Renewable Energy Association and written by the engineering consultancy Sinclair Knight Merz. The study, published on Wednesday, found that subsidising geothermal technology initially would help to bring down costs rapidly as sites around the UK were developed. It recommended a different system of subsidy, targeting support at the exploration drilling phase.
Ryan Law, chair of the REA’s deep geothermal group, said: “We don’t want to be left out of a global industry which is estimated to be worth £30bn by 2020. We could be at the forefront of this industry given the strength of British engineering skills. If the UK wants to seize a share of this booming global market we must prove our competence at home. Clearly investment at home could also go a long way to meeting our future energy needs cleanly and safely.”
There are potential problems to be overcome, however. Geothermal technology is still expensive, can only work in certain sites and the process of drilling and pumping water to the underground rocks has been linked to seismic activity in some areas. The two small earthquakes that hit Blackpool following drilling in the area for shale gas exploration did not stop advisors recommending that ministers should allow shale drilling to go ahead - but local residents may have concerns.
Sea Land and Power Ltd argued that the wind farm near Gt Yarmouth would help to meet [national renewable energy] targets.
In a judgment handed down at the Administrative Court [Judge Laing] backed both the local councils and conservation groups in rejecting the plans.
Both Great Yarmouth Borough Council and a Government Planning Inspector kicked rejected the wind farm, finding that further turbines in the area would threaten its character and natural beauty.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) expressed concerns about the potential impact of the wind turbines on important local populations of pink footed geese and marsh harriers, although the charity later withdrew its objections.
Despite recognising the benefits of wind generated power, she said the inspector was entitled to her view that they were, in this case, outweighed by the “material harm” the development would cause to the “character and appearance” of a sensitive area.
“This is simply a case of policies pulling in different directions: harm to landscape and the benefits of renewable energy. The inspector was required to have regard to both sets of policies and to undertake a balancing exercise”
A spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England said t…
“It is important we meet our climate change targets and wind is part of that but there are two environmental goods here – there is cutting carbon and there is the beauty and tranquillity of our landscape. We think it is possible to meet our targets without wrecking the countryside.
The BBC report is here
Sea & Land Power and Energy Ltd’s wanted to erect four 344ft (105m) turbines near Hemsby, Great Yarmouth.
The borough council refused the plan in 2009, over concerns about the adverse impact on the landscape.
Mrs Justice Lang upheld the decision and said the government’s encouragement of renewable energy did not outweigh local conservation policies.
She rejected Sea & Land’s arguments that the council planning inspector had ignored the government’s target that 17% of the region’s energy needs should be met from renewable sources by 2020.
She said it was a legitimate exercise of planning judgement.
And Daily Mail
Villagers scored a major victory over the wind farm and green lobby yesterday.
A High Court judge ruled their right to preserve their landscape was more important than the Government’s renewable energy targets.
The proposal from Sea & Land Power and Energy had already been rejected by both council and government inspectors.
In what will be seen as a landmark ruling, the judge agreed, saying lower carbon emissions did not take ‘primacy’ over the concerns of the people of Hemsby.
Maria Ellis, a landscape gardener who petitioned against the turbines, said: ‘This has been hanging over us for ages because the company kept proposing it over and over again which just smacked of arrogance.
‘Norfolk is renowned for its open skyline which has inspired stories and poetry and literature. The site is on a hill between two villages and we already have wind turbines to the north, west and east.
‘It is overdevelopment, you can’t cover the hills and dales in turbines.’
Tory MP Brandon Lewis, who lives in Hemsby, said: ‘This decision should really set a precedent for planning officers, inspectors and courts to give weight to the feelings of local people in protecting their environment. It really shows that local people who are organised and feel passionately can have an impact and make a difference.
‘In Great Yarmouth, we have several wind farms nearby, and renewable energy is a huge part of our economy. Wind energy is important but it has to be in the right place and should not have a negative impact on the community or the countryside we love.’
The proposed wind farm was fewer than 300 yards from the edge of the Broads national park and around 800 yards from homes in Hemsby.
Villagers said they feared over-development because there were already three wind farms within three miles.
Ministers have made onshore and offshore turbines a central plank of their plans to plug Britain’s looming energy gap. At least 340 farms are up and running with many more planned.
Suffolk-based Sea & Land had said their four turbines could supply 5,500 homes – or around 14 per cent of the energy needs of the Great Yarmouth borough council area.
But the local planning inspector kicked out the bid, saying: ‘The development would result in material harm to the character and appearance of the area because of its scale and location and the cumulative impacts of other similar developments.’
The inspector said the existing wind farms were ‘visually prominent in this simple, attractive, tranquil landscape with its scattered villages and farmsteads’.
Sea & Land took the case to the High Court in London, insisting that the East of England had failed to meet its energy targets for 2010 and was unlikely to meet the Whitehall target to generate 17 per cent of energy from low-carbon sources by 2020.
Yesterday Mrs Justice Lang backed the inspector, saying Sea & Land’s point about its 2009 proposal was ‘unarguable’.
‘I do not accept that the inspector ought to have disregarded the local landscape policies in the light of the national policies,’ she said.
‘As a matter of law it is not correct to assert that the national policy promoting the use of renewable resources … negates the local landscape policies or must be given primacy over them.
‘This is simply a case of policies pulling in different directions: harm to landscape and the benefits of renewable energy. The inspector was required to have regard to both sets of policies and to undertake a balancing exercise.’
Yesterday Roy Pinnock, an expert in planning law at the firm SNR Denton, said the case may bolster other villagers fighting wind farm projects.
‘It shows planning is all about balancing competing interests, and there will be a complex web of considerations in each case,’ he added.
‘There is a great emphasis on renewables, but this shows no one can claim that any particular outcome is preordained and it’s crucial that developers make an irresistible case for their development.’
Sea & Land can now take the case to the Court of Appeal.
Cally Smith, of the Broads Authority, said the turbines would have had a ‘significant and adverse impact on the protected landscape of the Broads’.
She added: ‘This is not acceptable. There are other places which are better suited to accommodate development such as this.’
But Robert Norris of Renewable UK, the trade body for the wind industry, said the judge was wrong to suggest the case would have a wider impact.
‘It is absolutely vital for any developer to look at the impact on the landscape and wildlife before they can even think about going ahead with a project, but planners also have to consider the need to keep the lights on by generating electricity from sources that are clean and meet our carbon targets.’
And here is the Ballilaw full decision highlighted Sea & Land Power & Energy Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Great Yarmouth Borough Council  EWHC 1419 (Admin)
On 18 June 2010, the Claimant appealed against the Second Defendant’s decision. It submitted that the Development Plan comprised the Regional Spatial Strategy (East of England Plan) (“the RSS”), the Norfolk Structure Plan and the Great Yarmouth Borough-Wide Local Plan. The renewable energy policies in the RSS – ENG1 and 2 – required local authorities to support and encourage the supply of energy from decentralised renewable and low carbon sources and stated that a minimum of 17% of the region’s energy should be from renewable sources by 2020
It contended that the proposed development was not contrary to local policies NNV2, NNV3 and NNV7, since the landscape and visual impacts were only significant in the immediate vicinity of the site, and so it was not in breach of the Development Plan.
In the alternative, it submitted that other material considerations strongly supported the grant of planning permission, referring in particular to PPS22 on renewable energy and the supplement to PPS1, which advises planning authorities on how to promote and encourage renewable energy generation….
The exercise of planning judgment and the weighing of the various issues are entirely matters for that decision-maker and not for the Court: Seddon Properties v Secretary of State for the Environment (1981) 42 P & CR 26, at 28 and Tesco v Secretary of State for the Environment  1 W1.R 759, at 780. In the latter case Lord Hoffmann said “If there is one principle of planning law more firmly settled than any other, it is that matters of planning judgment are within the exclusive province of the local planning authority or the Secretary of State”….
The Claimant submits that the Inspector failed to take into account the material issues raised by the RSS because she did not refer to the regional targets. Nor did she refer to the regional deficit in meeting the targets for renewable energy, and the extent to which this development would help to reduce the deficit.
In my judgment, paragraph 26 of the decision letter shows that she did take these issues into account. She identified the contribution which this development would make to the energy needs of the area (5500 homes/14% of the needs in the Council’s area) and she accepted that it “would play an important part locally” in meeting “the Government’s targets for a renewable energy supply”. The phrase “the Government’s targets” includes the specific targets in the RSS, as well as the more general national targets….
The Claimant submits that the Inspector’s reasons were inadequate without a more detailed reference to the deficit and the contribution this development would have made to its reduction. It was argued that this was the central issue on the appeal, and the Claimant did not know why it had lost on this point. Applying the well-established principles set out …above. I consider that the reasons in the decision letter were adequate. I accept that they were not as legalistic or comprehensive as the reasons given in the other examples of decision letters shown to me, but nonetheless they met the minimum standard required by law….
The Claimant’s third ground of appeal was that the Inspector failed to give “primacy” to national policy, in circumstances where there was a conflict between local plan policies and national policy.
The Claimant submitted that the local landscape policies are inconsistent with PPS1, paragraph 22, because they restrict development. In particular, NNV7 prohibits development in the countryside unless it is in keeping with the rural character of the area. A wind turbine development by its nature is unlikely to be in keeping with the rural character of the area so that if NNV7 were to be applied without the necessary regard to the provisions of PPS22 and the Supplement to PPS1 it would effectively create a bar to wind farm development in rural areas.
In my judgment, the Claimant’s analysis was misconceived, for the reasons given by the First Defendant.
First, the landscape policies are part of the Great Yarmouth Borough-Wide Local Plan. This is part of the statutory development plan as defined by s. 38(3) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 read with the transitional provisions contained in that Act S. 38 (6) of that Act provides that “[i]f regard is to be had to the development plan for the purpose of any determination to be made under the planning Acts the determination must be made in accordance with the plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise”. This provision gives effect to what is called the plan- led system. There is thus a statutory presumption in favour of the statutory development plan, here that includes the local plan and its policies on landscape. In contrast, national planning policies (including PPS22 and the PPS1 supplement) are merely other material considerations…
Thus the legal position is that the statutory presumption lies in favour of the statutory development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. National planning policy is a material consideration. Where national policies change, this can amount to a material consideration of sufficient weight to reach a decision other than in accordance with the statutory development plan but this is not mandatory; rather it involves a balancing exercise for the decision-maker, in this case the Inspector.
Second, the Claimant has misinterpreted the PPS1 supplement. It does not “require” the Inspector to give “primacy” to national policy over local policy. It provides that national policies are a material consideration which “may” supersede the policies in the development plan” (paragraph 11). They will not necessarily do so. This recognises that what is involved is a balancing exercise between different policies…
As I have already explained, as a matter of law it is not correct to assert that the national policy promoting the use of renewable resources in PPS1 paragraph 22 negates the local landscape policies or must be given “primacy” over them. As the First Defendant submits, this is simply a case of policies pulling in different directions: harm to landscape and the benefits of renewable energy. The Inspector was required to have regard to both sets of policies and to undertake a balancing exercise.
The judge has simply reinforced existing law. Far more will be made of this case than it merits. It will be used by some cllrs, as the MP above implies, as licence to state local landscape policies outweigh national targets. Of course those local plan landscape policies need to be in place. This will be to entirely miss the judges point that the two issues should be weighed and balanced. If the impact on the landscape is high and gain for carbon free energy low a refusal will be safely upheld, as will an approval where the reverse is the case.
One of the arguments that most annoys me is that Growth in Britain is hindered by excessive planning regulation. Many of the same dumb tanks also argue that markets have not developed in some industries because of lack of proper markets to stir innovation and provide certainty to business investment. Consider the following:
Explorers must address social and environmental concerns over shale gas extraction if the unconventional fuel is to thrive, the International Energy Agency has said.
Launching a new report by her agency on the issue, IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven said the technology was available for environmentally – responsible production of unconventional gas.
However, she warned that “if the social and environmental impacts are not addressed properly, there is a very real possibility that public opposition to drilling for shale gas and other types of unconventional gas will halt the unconventional gas revolution in its tracks”.
“The industry must win public confidence by demonstrating exemplary performance, and governments must ensure that appropriate policies and regulatory regimes are in place,” she added.
The report, Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas, sets out a list of recommended measures to ensure best practice.
These include: full transparency, measuring and monitoring of environmental impacts; engagement with local communities; careful choice of drilling sites and measures to prevent any leaks from wells into nearby aquifers; rigorous assessment and monitoring of water requirements and of waste water; measures to target zero venting and minimal flaring of gas; and improved project planning and regulatory control.
Hoeven said the IEA’s approach had already been endorsed by G8 leaders at their recent Camp David summit.
IEA chief economist Fatih Birol, the report’s chief author, said the agency estimated that the additional measures could add an extra 7% to the cost of a single shale well, but that this rate would be much lower for a typical larger development.
He said that unconventional gas production could triple to 1.6 trillion cubic metres globally by 2035 if the rules are followed, but that if they are not shale gas production may remain static in future, weakening the ranking of gas in the global energy mix as prices rise.
Imagine 10 years ago you ask what is the planning regulatory system in the UK for building power stations? We did not have one rather we had one designed for householder cases and small developments and multiple other confusing regimes. Now we have a reformed and simplified system designed for major infrastructure. The issue im making is not one about fracking or its pros and cons but about efficient regulation. Try describing your answer to the following question from an investor:
I wish to invest in a new Garden City in the UK, please tell me the steps I will have to go through.
We of course in England have no specific system for the approval of, or even the need for, major housing and mixed use projects of larger than local scale. And we wonder what the problem is. The failure is a failure of regulatory design not because regulation is the problem.
Two nearby windfarms in Northwest Norfolk have been permitted after a c0 joined appeal.
The decision letter is here
At the close of the Inquiry the Barrister for one of the appeals marked it out as a test case as Barrister Jeremy Pike said
“If a wind farm is not acceptable at Chiplow, then no wind farm can be considered acceptable anywhere in lowland England. It really is, with respect, as simple as that,”
The inspector on rgional targets concluded
EEP Policy ENG2 sets targets for on-shore renewable energy to meet 10% of the region’s energy by 2010 and 17% by 2020 (subject to meeting international obligations to protect wildlife including migratory birds). This reflects on-going national targets for the provision of renewable energy (which can only be met by local delivery). They are objectively
assessed needs in the terms of paragraph 14 of the National Planning Policy Framework. Whilst the regional targets themselves may go as and when the Plan is revoked, the need to develop renewable energy will not disappear. The evidence base that underpinned the EEP targets can remain relevant, as the Government confirmed when it first proposed the abolition of regional plans in 20101.
A 2003 landscape character assessment stated that both sites had a ‘high’ capacity to accommodate a ‘small scale’ turbine group.
The inspoector concluded
The identified landscape and visual harm would be real but not as extensive as some have suggested. It needs to be weighed with any benefits of the developments
On the issue of impact on heritage assets the inspector leaves in a few stray references to PPS5 but this makes little difference as he acknowledges that the policy on the setting of heritage assets is substantially the same in the NPPF. They concluded that here would be a moderate but less than substantial adverse effect on the setting of an ancient monument hillfort 2.5-4.5km away.
Regarding the impact on Houghton Park
the few points within the park at which the Chiplow turbine blades might be seen, they would distract attention away from what is otherwise a complete and substantially unchanged 18th century park.
As the setting is so original and intact, any modern intrusion into the setting would risk some harm to the park’s setting and heritage significance. However that harm to significance would be minor and not substantial as the turbines would only be visible from some parts of the park (particularly in summer when the park is open to visitors and the trees are in leaf), would not intrude on any important planned or open vista, and would appear as relatively small features at this distance.
There was considerable debate about collisions with Pink Footed Geese, a natura protected species which migrate to a nearby SPA. Indeed local protesters had dressed up as these Geese. The number of anticipated collisions was around the 1-2% mortality rate of significance however a novel mitigation scheme involving rotated sugar beet was proposed. The inspector crucially concluded that the scheme met the Waddensee test, but it was unclear from the decision letter if this was before or after mitigation.
The core strategy was recently adopted and the inpector balenced its policies on renewable energy and local landscape.
I conclude here on the evidence before me that the benefits of both appeal schemes clearly outweigh the individual and cumulative identified harm.In the terms of the local Core Strategy Policy CS08 the locational and other impacts are thus not unacceptable as they are here outweighed by wider environmental and economic benefits. Similarly the public benefits here outweigh the modest loss of interest or significance of environmental assets in the terms of local Core Strategy Policy CS12 and the National Planning Policy Framework (as carried forward from the previous PPS5 Policy HE.10). Both appeal proposals are therefore in overall accord with the local development plan and with regional and national policy. The Framework urges at paragraph 14 that, for decision-taking, the Framework’s presumption in favour of sustainable development means that development proposals that accord with the development plan should be approved without delay.