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Wiltshire Council told to review new wind farm policy
8:00am Friday 24th August 2012 in News
A planning inspector has told Wiltshire Council to re-examine its policy on wind farms.
Wind farm development in Wiltshire was effectively ended by a last-minute amendment to the council’s Core Strategy on June 26, specifying the need for a minimum separation distance between homes and turbines due to public safety concerns.
The strategy, put forward by the ruling Conservative group, specified a minimun distance of 1.5km for turbines greater than 50m, 2km for those over 100m, and 3km for 150m turbines. It was opposed by Lib Dem councillors.
Now the planning inspector has told the council to re-open consultation on the issue following pressure from local campaign groups including the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance, which is made up of residents, businesses and community groups. The group, formed after the amendment, wrote to the inspector questioning the scientific basis of the policy and lack of public consultation.
Sophy Fearnley-Whitting-stall is a member of the group and is head of campaign partnerships at Chippenham-based renewable electricity supplier Good Energy.
She said: “Planning policy should be open-minded and unbiased, yet this amendment, rushed through at the 11th hour, seeks to place prejudice against one form of development at the heart of our planning system.
“It is wrong to scrap an evidence-based planning system and replace it with unscientific bias. Wind farms, as other developments, should be subject to fair planning scrutiny.”
The Alliance has a petition at www.wiltshirecea.org.uk Chippenham MP Duncan Hames said he is delighted the planning inspector has stepped in.
He said: “I am very keen to see us generate more renewable energy, including through on-shore wind turbines. Decisions about renewable energy ought to be made on the merit of each individual case, and this policy amounted to an effective blanket-ban.”
A spokesman for the council said it expected the inspector would ask it to consult on the change.
The spokesman added: “The council is in discussion with the inspector as to how it will carry out this consultation. This action was suggested to the inspector by the council and will provide the opportunity for further comments to be submitted.
“Once the feedback has been gathered, the Wiltshire Core Strategy will be examined in public at a date and venue to be confirmed by the Inspectorate in due course.”