Wind farms are controversial. Nevertheless, it may be that we need a certain number of them if we are to provide enough clean, renewable energy to avert the worst impacts of climate change on our precious countryside.
However, the inappropriate siting of turbines, singly or in groups, can have a large and usually negative impact on the landscape, sometimes being too damaging and blighting the lives of people who live nearby.
In order to ensure that they are appropriately scaled in less sensitive landscapes where they are needed to help meet agreed local, regional and national planning targets, there is a need to be proactive in mapping the capacity of our countryside to include different types of renewable energy.
I asked the Cabinet Member for Planning at Redcar and Cleveland Council to agree to set up an all Party working group which would consider such matters as: the minimum distance from residential property; acceptable height according to location; the Borough’s contribution to meeting renewable energy targets and the cumulative effect of wind energy schemes. She derided this suggestion and said that Officers are developing a policy.
This working group, in consultation with residents, would report to Cabinet and propose some guidelines for Council to consider including in the review of the Local Development Plan.
Developing a strategic approach to planning the best places for wind farms and other forms of green power would place Redcar and Cleveland Council at the forefront of innovative policy development.
Applications made to the Council for the siting of wind turbines have so far all been for East Cleveland. Two have been refused. The one for Upleatham was withdrawn, but how soon will it come back? There is now a move to site five vast turbines just a few hundred yards from the hamlet of Mount Pleasant, near Guisborough.
We cannot carry on making piecemeal decisions, which will leave our beautiful countryside blighted. We urgently need a strategic plan which indicates the most appropriate places for wind turbines and other forms of green power and the best people to develop this are the councillors, who you elected to represent you, in consultation with residents. Labour refused to consider this.
Cllr Helen Mcluckie Cabinet member for Highways, Transport and Planning told Coastal View: “In reply to Cllr Halton, I wish to correct a number of inaccuracies contained within the press release.
“It states that ‘I derided’ a suggestion to set up an all party working group to discuss this issue. I did not – I confirmed that such a group already exists and is well established within in the council. The STEWPS (site visits, training and environmental working parties) committee, already meets monthly to consider a range of matters relating to the planning process, this includes the issue of renewable energy.
“This committee is cross party and open to all elected members, should they wish to participate. It should be noted that this committee is not officer lead, it is chaired and managed by the chair of planning committee who is an elected member.
“However what the council cannot do is determine the size, scale and location of renewable energy, which must be done in conjunction with national government policy, a policy that the Conservatives and Lib Dems signed up to.
“There are already clear legislative guidelines on locations of wind turbines in particular, including separation distances, which the council is not in a position to overrule.
“However, the council is developing a protocol on how it would deal with renewable energy planning applications. This will give clarity to residents and developers alike; on the process followed in considering such applications and give a better understanding on how the officer’s recommendations have been reached when applications are considered by the planning committee. The renewable energy protocol will hopefully be adopted by the council within the next few months and I do stipulate, this will be an elected member decision across all political parties. The council has in the past done similar protocols and they have proved very successful, one that springs to mind, is the telecommunications masts, which was very controversial at the time.
“Cllr Halton also states that we cannot carry on making piecemeal decisions on this issue. However planning legislation requires that every application must be judged on its own merits and therefore the council cannot create a system where the result of any application is already pre-judged before it gets to committee – that, by definition, would be maladministration. All planning decisions have to be based on national, regional and local planning law and any decision to refuse any planning application, has to be supported by sound material planning considerations.
“Cllr Halton is very aware of this as a planning committee member and has had many briefings with officers on renewable energy.
“My last comment is if the Conservative group are so against renewable energy, they are in a far better position to change and influence policy at a National level, more so than Redcar and Cleveland Council, or is this just a political stunt to win votes?”