A planning inspector has told Wiltshire Council to go back and consult the public on a controversial amendment to the Core Strategy, which will govern future planning and development in the county.
On June 26 Wiltshire Council agreed its new Core Strategy. At the last minute, an amendment was accepted that aimed to create minimum separation distances between homes and wind farms. The scale of these separation distances would effectively end prospects of wind farm development in Wiltshire.
Sophy Fearnley-Whittingstall, head of campaign partnerships at Chippenham-based renewable electricity supplier Good Energy, said: "Planning policy should be open-minded and un-biased, 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."
The newly formed Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance, a group of local residents, businesses, and community groups from Pewsey to Bradford on Avon, wrote to the planning inspector, questioning the scientific basis of the amendment and the lack of public consultation. The planning inspector’s office replied that it has told Wiltshire Council that the public should be consulted on the proposed change.
Ms Fearnley-Whittingstall said: "The alliance has been formed to show that there is wide-spread opposition to this amendment, which isn't just anti-wind, but anti-fairness. It is wrong to scrap an independent and evidence-based planning system and replace it with unscientific bias.
"All development should be subject to the same rules. Wind farms, as other developments, should be subject to fair planning scrutiny, considered on a case-by-case basis, and sited only where appropriate."
She said that in an independent assessment for Wiltshire Council wind farms and biomass have been recognised as the key renewable energy opportunities for Wiltshire. They can also help Wiltshire become more energy independent and offer opportunities for communities to benefit.
The alliance says that if, following consultation, this amendment becomes policy then Wiltshire's ability to reduce carbon emissions will be severely limited. The National Planning Policy Framework, which the Core Strategy is required to comply with, requires that councils 'design their policies to maximise renewable and low carbon energy development while ensuring that adverse impacts are addressed'.
The justification for this amendment was public safety. However there has not been a single incident, anywhere in the world, where a member of the public has been seriously injured by the normal operation of a wind turbine.
Rowena Quantrill is a member of the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance and the energy group of Climate Friendly Bradford on Avon. She said: "It is particularly concerning that the council was prepared to make such a significant change without public consultation.
"I hope other groups and individuals will support the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance and help show that Wiltshire people want a planning system that is fair for everyone. People can find out more about how to register their objections to this policy on our website: http://www.wiltshirecea.org.uk."