Onshore wind farms, recently under attack from leading conservationists for damaging the countryside, can bring significant economic benefits locally and nationally, as well as contributing to the fight against climate change, a new study claims. Michael McCarthy reports in The Independent
Onshore wind supported 8,600 jobs and was worth £548m to the UK economy in 2011, says the report, by consultancy BiGGAR Economics. Of this figure 1,100 jobs were created at local authority level, with £84m of investment.
Looking at 18 case studies of wind farms of different sizes drawn from across the UK, the study analyses the contribution of wind farm development, construction, operation and maintenance to the economy at a local, regional and national level. It suggests if onshore wind is deployed at a scale suggested in the Government’s Renewable Energy Roadmap, the economy could benefit by £780m by 2020, with around 11,600 jobs being supported.
From its beginnings 20 years ago, Britain’s wind industry now has 3,176 large onshore turbines, with 568 turbines in the sea, according to RenewableUK, the wind industry trade body.
The onshore wind farms together can produce about 4.5 gigawatts of electricity, roughly the equivalent of four large conventional power stations, with another 1.5GW coming from offshore turbines. But the growing presence of turbines in the landscape – there are nearly 3,000 more in the planning process – has led to criticism from conservationists, and last week the Campaign to Protect Rural England broke ranks with other environmental groups who have hitherto been united in support for wind energy for the contribution it can make, with other CO2-free energies like solar and tidal power, to cut carbon emissions that cause climate change.
The CPRE said the countryside was being caught in “a hurricane of new wind turbines” and local communities were “struggling to safeguard valued landscapes” which were being industrialised by the presence of wind farms. Shaun Spiers, its chief executive, said his group accepted onshore wind in the right places as part of the mix required to meet the UK ‘s carbon reduction targets, “but we are seeing more and more giant turbines sited in inappropriate locations”.
The Government and wind industry stress the benefits wind farms can bring. “Rather than feeling wind has been imposed on them, people across the UK recognise the benefits of having wind in their backyard,” said RenewableUK’s chief executive Maria McCaffery. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: “Wind power provides secure, low carbon power to homes and businesses, and supports jobs and brings significant investment.”
- Report claims wind power benefits (thisislondon.co.uk)
- Wind power industry generates millions for economy, new report claims (scotsman.com)
- UK News: Report claims wind power benefits (walesonline.co.uk)
- National News: Report claims wind power benefits (coventrytelegraph.net)
- Scheme to finance onshore wind farms (premierlinedirect.co.uk)
- Plea to government on wind farms (bbc.co.uk)
- Warning UK Is Being Overrun With Wind Farms (news.sky.com)
- An ill wind blows in Northamptonshire (telegraph.co.uk)
- UK News: Warning over wind turbines spread (walesonline.co.uk)
- National News: Warning over wind turbines spread (coventrytelegraph.net)
For more than 60 years, the English countryside has been preserved from unthinking development by a demanding set of planning laws which evolved from the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. Too much so, this Government believes. It is taking the 1,300 pages of planning regulations and reducing them to just 52. Groups which campaign to protect the rural landscape have been fighting to prevent the Government sweeping away these laws. It looks as though they have failed.
George Osborne will make reference to the Government’s intentions in his Budget today. But the full National Planning Policy Framework is not to be published until next week, in an apparent attempt to make it look as though the changes are not primarily driven by economics. But the truth is that the planning system is being changed from an instrument that protects the countryside to one that facilitates economic growth – in two key ways. First, the system is to be altered so that the default answer to any “sustainable” development proposal will be Yes. Second, the historic recognition that ordinary countryside has “intrinsic value” will be scrapped.
These measures go way too far. There is no question that Britain needs more new homes. And we would argue that the definition of the Green Belt needs to be adjusted to facilitate more building. But these measures do not affect the Green Belt, they apply to the ordinary, unprotected countryside. The danger is that the changes will promote ribbon development between our major cities, changing the look of the country for ever.
During a three-month consultation on the changes, the National Trust and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England found serious risks, but just two small concessions have been made: a recognition that brownfield sites are to be preferred, and a definition of “sustainable” that would otherwise have meant whatever developers wanted it to.
The English countryside needs more protection if it is not to be disfigured by development. We must not allow short-term economic interests to desecrate our heritage and endanger our long-term wellbeing.
- The builders’ charter: Osborne to overturn 65 years of planning law (independent.co.uk)
- BUDGET 2012: Boris island airport could get lift off as Osborne rips up 60 years of planning law to drive economy forward (dailymail.co.uk)
- Planning system reforms: Countryside campaigners warn MPs they face a major ‘headache’ (dailymail.co.uk)
- Fiona Reynolds: ‘It’s thanks to the National Trust that Britain doesn’t look like New Jersey’ (independent.co.uk)
- Michael McCarthy: ‘Visit Britain’ could soon become a much harder sell (independent.co.uk)
- Hands Off Our Land: Developers now to be forced to build on brownfield sites before the countryside (telegraph.co.uk)
- Opinion: the ongoing disaster of British land-use planning (libdemvoice.org)
- New towns to ‘disfigure’ UK: Fury over move to ditch 60 years of planning law in bid to construct new garden cities (dailymail.co.uk)
In any dispute that sets the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England against the Government, most sensible people find themselves instinctively siding with the environmentalists. From The Independent editorial pages
That is what the Commons Environmental Audit Committee has done. Despite coming from a body dominated by Conservatives, its highly critical new report warns that the loosening of planning regulations contained in the National Planning Policy Framework is “contradictory and confusing”.
This is an argument that has been rumbling away since July when the Coalition’s proposals referred to a “presumption in favour” of development. Then the National Trust warned that this could lead to “unchecked and damaging development”. The committee has now written to David Cameron urging him to reconsider the “unsatisfactory” wording of the framework.
The trust’s remit, and the committee’s, is to protect the countryside. But the Government has a more urgent responsibility: to tackle the UK’s dismal housing record. There are now five million people on waiting lists, yet house-building is at its lowest peacetime level for 90 years. In the south-east of the country, house prices are now between eight and 12 times average annual incomes. Yet some local authorities do not appear to be making even a basic effort to see that local people have somewhere to live. The shortage of building land contributes to it. The authors of the framework were right to put the onus on local authorities to produce plans to help address the lack of housing.
It is true that we could be making better use of what is already there, such as the 300,000 empty dwellings. That would help, but we really do need more homes, and that means finding land on which to build them, and quickly.
This latest outbreak of opposition to reform of greenbelt laws from natural Conservative supporters is politically tricky.
But the Government should stand its ground.
- MPs warn Cameron of planning ‘free-for-all’ (independent.co.uk)
- Saturday interview: Fiona Reynolds, National Trust director general (guardian.co.uk)
- Hands Off Our Land: Enough ‘brownfield land’ to build 1.5million new homes, CPRE claims (telegraph.co.uk)
- Planning reforms will put ‘a house in every field’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- Hands Off Our Land: the fight to protect TS Eliot’s village (telegraph.co.uk)
- Sustainability Update : Government breaks pledge to keep developers off farmland (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- RSPB and National Trust may lose millions due to EU reforms (guardian.co.uk)
- Hands Off Our Land: Treasury ‘hijacked’ planning reforms (telegraph.co.uk)
Britain‘s best farmland will no longer be shielded from development, proposed new planning rules suggest, reversing a pledge made by the Conservatives before the last election. The Independent reports
Instead, the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which is generating fierce opposition from countryside and heritage groups, suggests that even “the best and most versatile agricultural land” can be built on in certain circumstances.
The change is evident when comparing the Conservative green paper, Open Source Planning, which was issued in 2010 and foreshadowed how a Tory Government might reform the planning system, and the draft NPPF itself, which was released in July and is now open for consultation.
The earlier document says on page 20: “We will introduce into our national planning framework rules preventing the development of the most fertile farmland, in all but exceptional circumstances.”
However, in the new draft, ministers have backpedalled over protecting such land. The document says, in paragraph 167: “Local authorities should take into account the economic and other benefits of the best and most versatile agricultural land.”
The change is part of a substantial shift in emphasis that the Government is trying to enforce in the planning system, from protecting the countryside and the natural environment to facilitating development.
At the heart of the new guidance, which will replace 1,300 pages of planning rules with fewer than 60, is “a presumption in favour of sustainable development” and the idea that “the default answer to development will be Yes.” This has attracted sharp and sustained criticism from groups such as the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which has labelled the new framework a potential “developers’ charter”.
They are alarmed that the pledge to protect the countryside for its intrinsic value, which has been part of the modern planning system since its inception in 1947, has been dropped in the new framework, as has the presumption that brownfield or derelict, former industrial sites, should be built on before greenfield land in the countryside.
The removal of specific protection for the best agricultural land is part of the shift and was criticised by the CPRE yesterday.
“It’s a good example of how the NPPF is all about the short-term economics and not about the longer-term issues like food security or what we want the countryside to be for,” said a CPRE spokesman.
“We think that strong protection for best quality agricultural land should be an absolutely critical part of sustainable development, given that such land is a finite resource and the pressure on food and farming from wider global pressures of climate change and population growth.
“We find it astonishing that the Government appears to be reneging on the Conservative pledge to strengthen such protection.”
- Planning reforms already having an impact on countryside (telegraph.co.uk)
- The strange campaign against the national planning policy framework | John Rhodes (guardian.co.uk)
- Minister promises amendments to radical planning framework (guardian.co.uk)
- Hands Off Our Land: the 300,000 new homes already ‘in the bank’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- Bill Bryson joins fight in countryside planning row (guardian.co.uk)
- Planning Policy Change in England, UK (urbangrit.wordpress.com)
- Planning reforms: David Cameron aide privately told builders new NPPF would ‘trigger more development’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- CPRE slams new speed sign plans (autonetinsurance.co.uk)
- Planning policy exists to serve the public. Or it once did | Shaun Spiers (guardian.co.uk)