Wind farms and local control (and implications for fracking)

Most surveys support the notion that the general public is widely in favor of wind farms as sources of renewable energy, and a way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, like coal and oil. Yet there have been several recent developments that appear to suggest a step back on wind farms in some communities.

 A recent UK High Court decision by Mrs. Justice Lang in Sea & Land Power & Energy Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Great Yarmouth Borough Council ([2012] EWHC 1419), found that national energy policies do not override local control over land uses and she upheld a rejection of a 4-turbine wind farm in Norfolk. The decision received a lot of attention, especially from those opposed to wind farms. It should be noted, as the Court does, that the decision by the local authorities does not reflect a rejection out-of-hand of wind farm developments as there are three wind farms within 5km of the proposed site in Norfolk.

 The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) policy positions on energy and onshore wind turbines are based on the recognition that climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions is a major threat to the character and quality of England’s countryside, as well as to the global environment. CPRE recognises the need to exploit a range of renewable energy sources, including wind power, to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets. While wind power can contribute to tackling climate change, CPRE believes this should not come at the expense of the beauty, character and tranquillity of rural England. Planning decisions on wind turbine applications need to take into full account the impact of the development on its surroundings and should serve the wider public interest.

In Ireland a group, tentatively called Campaign for Responsible Engagement with Wind Energy, has formed to raise concerns about intrusions on local communities and potential health effects from wind farms.

These developments do not represent a major setback but they led us to publish a Commentary in the July issue by Christopher Dobson, “Dispelling the myths – let’s tell the truth about wind farms,” to provide some arguments in favor of wind farms in the continuing debate.

A tension between local interest in land use and national energy policies is inevitable and will certainly be heard in the debate over fracking.

What do you think? Can one push for wind farms over local objection in the interest of national policies, and push against fracking in favor of local objections over national energy policies?


Some Sources:

See: “National campaign group targets wind turbines,” Irish Times, 12 June 2012; CPRE, Making Sense of Planning Decisions for Wind Turbines: Analysis of Cases (August 2010)

See also, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Wind Energy and Justice for Disadvantaged Communities









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