Newsletter Summer 2015

Dear Friends

It has been a while since we were last in touch. We have deliberately postponed sending a newsletter while announcements from the new Government about future wind and solar energy proposals have been coming in thick and fast. However, now that things seem to have settled down a bit, the time has come to review the situation.

It does appear that the new Government has gone some way towards honouring its pre-election promises. Revisions to National Planning Guidance have been published, building upon the changes which first appeared in 2013/14.

This time it has been made very clear that permission should not be given for single or multiple turbines where the proposal does not have the support of the local community. The Right Honourable Greg Clark, Minister for Communities and Local Government, announced in a written statement to the House of Commons on 18th June that, with immediate effect,

‘local people have the final say on wind farm applications, fulfilling the commitment made in the Conservative election manifesto.

The Minister went on to say that, when determining applications for one or more wind turbines, Local Planning Authorities should only give permission when,

‘following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed and therefore the proposal has their backing.’

The Planning Guidance itself can be viewed by following the link below. Please refer to section entitled: Do local people have the final say on wind farm applications?

http://planningguidance.planningportal.gov.uk/blog/guidance/renewable-and-low-carbon-energy/particular-planning-considerations-for-hydropower-active-solar-technology-solar-farms-and-wind-turbines/#paragraph_033

This change took effect on 18th June and, as part of National Planning Practice Guidance, it is a material planning consideration in most applications for wind turbines from then onwards.

In addition to the newly published Planning Guidance, the Right Honourable Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has recently announced that subsidies for onshore wind energy development will be brought to an early close and that only projects which already have planning consent and an agreed grid connection will benefit from an intervening ‘grace period.’ The reason for this action is that there are now sufficient onshore wind projects, including projects that have planning permission, to meet the targets that the Government has set itself.

The full announcement can be found via following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/statement-on-ending-subsidies-for-onshore-wind

Similar measures are likely to be taken with regard to solar farms. We learned from Amber Rudd’s recent announcement that the Government will be consulting on plans that would see subsidies for some new solar farms close by 2016. Under the Government’s plans, so called “small scale” solar farms will no longer qualify for support from April next year. Small scale solar farms are usually regarded as covering up to 25 acres. Further details are available via the following link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/NEWS/science-environment-33619017

Congratulations to objectors at Bothel who mounted a sterling campaign against a 73 acre solar park which had been proposed on land adjacent to the existing wind farm at Wharrels Hill. Despite very powerful objections from Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Tourism and the Lake District National Park Authority, this application was recommended to be approved by Allerdale’s planning officers. However, the councillors on the development panel were persuaded to refuse planning permission by the convincing arguments presented by objectors.

The changes already implemented and planned by the Government in respect of subsidy changes for wind farms and solar parks are to be celebrated. They are likely to result in some lowering of the cost of consumer energy bills.

Naturally, the developers are not at all happy with the situation. If they really believe that smothering the countryside with solar panels and turbines is the right way forward, they do of course still have the option to look for funding from sources other than the already overstretched tax payers and consumers who have been footing the cost of renewable energy subsidies for many years.

From the point of view of those of us who have opposed inappropriate wind energy development, the changes underline how important it is for local communities to make their views known and to engage with the planning system. We cannot claim that a community has not given its backing to a wind turbine or solar application where there have not been plenty of objections from local residents.

As always, Friends of Rural Cumbria’s Environment are happy to lend a hand with helping to gather material for objections and to advise on planning matters etc. We are currently working on a new approach to our own objection writing and would like to invite more participation from our wider membership. If you would like to assist us and be more involved in our campaign against renewable energy development which is inappropriately and/or insensitively sited, we would really like to hear from you.

It is very heartening that, in the short time since the Government’s announcements, a crop of local appeals have been dismissed by the Planning Inspectorate. They include:

West House Farm, Silloth

https://acp.planningportal.gov.uk/ViewCase.aspx?Caseid=3001062&CoID=0

Reathwaite Farm, near Rosley

https://acp.planningportal.gov.uk/ViewCase.aspx?caseid=2229353

Park House, Aikton

https://acp.planningportal.gov.uk/ViewCase.aspx?Caseid=3000998&CoID=0

Appeals for single wind turbines at Ainstable in Eden and at Midtown Farm near Great Orton have also been dismissed.

In the case of the appeal for a single turbine at Waverbank, near Fletchertown, the Inspector has contacted all interested parties, for and against the proposed development, inviting further comments in light of the Government’s announcements.

So, all in all, pretty good NEWS this time around.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to invite our members to explore the brand new FORCE website which can be accessed via the following link:

http://forcecumbria.org

We have packed the website full of information which we hope will be of use to anyone who is fighting an inappropriate wind or solar application. Details on the site are updated regularly. We are hoping that our new web address will turn up more frequently on internet searches.

Please note that our contact email address has also changed to the one we are using to distribute this newsletter. If you have any comments or questions, we would love to hear from you.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Friends of Rural Cumbria’s Environment