Good Energy Briefing - Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance

Wind turbines in Wiltshire
Good Energy Briefing
Amendment to Core Strategy Policy 42
On June 26th, with no prior consultation, Wiltshire Council voted through an amendment to its
Core Strategy Submission Document that effectively bans wind turbines from being built
anywhere in Wiltshire.
This amendment to Policy 42 was made on health and safety grounds – ostensibly because of
the risk of turbine blades shearing off and causing injury. It seeks to impose minimum distances
between wind turbines and residential properties, up to 3km for wind turbines over 150m high.
Guardian article here.
Political and Planning process
Wiltshire Core Strategy is the most important planning document at the county level. Work on
the Core Strategy (which will replace many planning documents produced by the now defunct
District Councils) started in 2009, and has been through a number of drafts and has been
consulted on a number of times. The amendment to the policy on wind turbine distances was
not mentioned or debated before the 26th June meeting, when the Core Strategy Document
was approved by full Council. Before the amendment, Policy 42 set out clear guidelines to
protect key landscapes and monuments in Wiltshire. Although the amendment does state that
shorter distances may be appropriate where there is clear public support, this still clearly
contravenes national planning guidance which states that wind turbine applications should
be judged on a case-by-case basis; is likely to be impractical and could prevent many
worthwhile projects, such as community-owned schemes, from going ahead.
It is understood that this was the last stage in the Core Strategy submission process before the
examination by a Government appointed Planning Inspector (known as Examination in Public or
EiP). A date will not be set for the EiP until all the material is submitted to the Secretary of State,
during the second week of July. Wiltshire Council are anticipating the examination towards the
end of September/early October. As soon as an examination date is known it will be posted on
the Council’s website.
The Core Strategy has to comply with the National Planning Policy Framework (here), which
has obligations re renewables. This states:
“To help increase the use and supply of renewable and low carbon energy, local planning
authorities should recognise the responsibility on all communities to contribute to energy
generation from renewable or low carbon sources. They should:
● have a positive strategy to promote energy from renewable and low carbon sources;
● design their policies to maximise renewable and low carbon energy development while
ensuring that adverse impacts are addressed satisfactorily, including cumulative landscape and
visual impacts;
● consider identifying suitable areas for renewable and low carbon energy sources, and
supporting infrastructure, where this would help secure the development of such sources;
Dated: 24-Mar-16
● support community-led initiatives for renewable and low carbon energy, including
developments outside such areas being taken forward through neighbourhood planning; and
● identify opportunities where development can draw its energy supply from decentralised,
renewable or low carbon energy supply systems and for co-locating potential heat customers
and suppliers.”
Separation distances:
England has no separation distance, although noise limits suggest a minimum separation
distance of 350 metres for a typical wind turbine. Scotland has guidance suggesting 2km and
Wales suggests 500m between a wind turbine and housing.
The Government has rejected the idea of a separation distance for England. (Source: House of
Commons library SN/SC/5221)
Health and Safety issues
Onshore wind is one of the safest forms of energy generation; statistics show that gas and coal
generation have much worse fatality records.
Globally, in the decade from 2000 to 2010 only four members of the public were killed in wind –
turbine related accidents – a parachutist, a light aircraft pilot, a road traffic accident while a
turbine was being transported and a child who was playing by a residential turbine under repair.
Wiltshire’s responsibility to renewable energy generation
Wiltshire’s carbon emissions are 18% higher than the national average (WWT report: The State
of the Environment in Wiltshire);
Wiltshire contributes the second lowest level of renewable electricity of all local authority areas
in the South West, contributing only 8.9% of the region’s total.
Wiltshire’s potential is 376MW capacity renewable energy by 2020 (Camco Wiltshire
Sustainable Energy Planning Study 2011) - the two main technologies identified for achieving
this are wind and biomass. Unfortunately Wiltshire’s track record is one of poor performance in
respect of previous targets*
The CAMCO study has identified key potential sites in Wiltshire, although this does not take into
account the wind resource – which would substantially reduce the number of suitable sites.
Background to onshore wind
Nobody wants wind turbines in the wrong location but appropriately sited, particularly as part of
a community initiative, they have an important role to play in a much needed renewable energy
strategy for the county.
Several studies show a majority of the UK population supports more wind power recently a
YouGov poll for EDF in June 2012 showed 58% of people were in favour of wind power (a
higher number than for nuclear, coal or gas). An ICM/Guardian poll in March 2012 shows that
60% of Britons would now support the building of a windfarm within five miles of their home. The
latest government survey (DECC, July 9 2012) shows 66% in favour of onshore wind.
Onshore wind is the most mature and cheapest renewable technology the UK has. As a landlocked county, clearly offshore wind is not viable for Wiltshire. The UK is the windiest country in
Europe, and has approximately 40% of Europe’s wind resource.
Dated: 24-Mar-16
The key to public acceptance is community engagement and ensuring that local people benefit
from wind farms - either through shared ownership; reduced local electricity prices; or
community funds (standard practice now); or all three. See Tim Yeo’s recent comments on this.
In the UK less than 10% of renewable energy is owned by individuals or communities,
compared with over 65% in Germany, where four times as much clean power is produced and
public acceptance is much greater.
*Existing renewable energy and heat installations in Wiltshire
Targets for the installed capacity of renewable energy in Wiltshire were set within the Wiltshire
and Swindon Renewable Energy Action Plan 2005. The target for Wiltshire, including the
administrative area of Swindon Borough Council, was for 65 to 85 MW of installed capacity to
be in place by 2010. However, in January 2010, the actual installed capacity of renewable
energy for Wiltshire and Swindon was only 15.30 MW which clearly falls far short of the target.
Impact on council-tax payers
If onshore wind, the most cost-effective renewable technology, is ruled out, then Wiltshire will
have to meet our targets another way – which will cost more, and taxpayers will foot the bill.
Wiltshire council recently paid £600,000 of council-tax-payers money to cover their carbon
emissions as part of its carbon reduction commitment. This commitment refers to emissions
from Wiltshire’s own operations, and so does not encompass the county-wide figures referred to
above. However, Wiltshire Council could meet its commitment by building its own wind turbines
as they are doing in Bristol.
Summary of local positions
Opposition to amendment:
Local groups campaigning for the environment, sustainable development, climate change and
renewable energy, e.g. Wiltshire Community Wind Energy, Chippenham and Villages
Environmentalists (CAVE), Climate Friendly Bradford on Avon, Melksham Climate Friendly
Group, Melksham Energy Group, Transition Community Corsham (Transcoco), Calne
Environmental Network, Purton Ps & Qs, North Wilts Friends of the Earth (NWFOE), North
Wiltshire Green Party, Good Energy and various LibDem councillors.
Support for amendment:
Mainly Conservative councillors. There is a suggestion that Network Against Wiltshire Sprawl
(NAWS), and some other local environmental groups, will not want to challenge the amendment
of the Core Strategy. e.g. the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, Stop Grange Farm
Wind Farm
For further information, please contact:
Sophy Fearnley-Whittingstall, Head of Media Relations and Campaign Partnerships, Good
Energy tel: 01249 767482 Mob. 07979 368238
Mike Birkin, South West Campaigner, Friends of the Earth 0117 9420128
Dated: 24-Mar-16