Protecting Northumberland: NEPG

A study by wind industry consultants Entec for Northumberland County Council which is supposed to ‘inform’ the Core Strategy and LDF laughably considers that Northumberland has the ‘technical capacity ’ for some 6,000 turbines! (According to the wind industry trade body there were 3868 turbines operating in the whole of the UK as of 1 August, 2012).

Founded in 1924, the Northumberland & Newcastle Society has worked hard for nearly 90 years to protect and enhance the environmental wealth and cultural heritage of the County and the City.

In response to changes in National Policy Framework, NCC is currently preparing a Core Strategy, which will be a statutory plan, setting out a vision and strategy for development in Northumberland over the next 15 years to address the challenges and opportunities faced.

Click links below to read the NEPG’s submission and annexed reports:

N & N Society Sustainability

Ian Kelly’s Single Turbines and Small Groupings Report March 2013

Alan Macdonald’s Visualisation Report March 2013

Bill Short’s Renewable Energy Planning Progress updated to Mar 2013

REF Wiltshire Separation Distance Consultation Oct 2012

Last chance for Northumberland to avoid ‘wind farm landscapes’

The Northumberland & Newcastle Society, which works to protect valuable buildings and landscapes and to enhance the quality of life in both urban and rural areas, has submitted an extensive and detailed response to the Preferred Options document.

Members of the Society have long been pressing for robust planning guidance for wind farm and smaller turbine developments in Northumberland. This concern was expressed in the formation of the Society’s Northumberland Environment Policy Group (NEPG) last year and the commissioning of a number of expert reports on the planning issues which it is hoped will help inform the emerging Core Strategy.

Lester Sher, Chairman of Society’s Northumberland Environment Policy Group (NEPG) says, “We urgently need robust planning guidance to protect communities and our treasured tourist landscapes. If this doesn’t happen, ‘localism’ will be meaningless and large areas of Northumberland will become ‘wind farm landscapes’, as has already happened in parts of the Scottish Borders.”

The Society is urging that policy should recognise the fact that Northumberland already has hugely more renewable capacity built, under construction and consented than any other county in England. A paper by business consultant Bill Short shows that Northumberland will have sufficient renewable capacity to generate 120% of its electricity consumption by the end of 2013. When consented capacity is added, the figures show that the county will generate 345% of consumption without any further consents. This massively exceeds all government targets.

NCC’s document makes the assumption that all wind energy developments are inherently ‘sustainable’. The Society argues that there is nothing in planning law to justify this assumption: the NPPF requires a balance to be struck between development that is sustainable and the protection of the landscape and communities.

There is also concern that NCC has not adequately recognised the cumulative effects of turbine development. The Society has pointed out that there are clear technical failings in the assessment of cumulation, as set out in the Core Strategy, especially with regard to smaller, so-called ‘farm turbines’. These are often 30 to 90 metres high and are very substantial structures in the landscape.

The Preferred Options document fails to provide a clear definition of ‘large-scale’ and ‘small-scale’ wind development. As it stands, the Core Strategy would view a single 175m Vestas V112 turbine as ‘small-scale’ because it has a headline capacity of less than 5MW, although it is much larger than any turbine yet built in Northumberland (the largest at the moment is the 130m turbine at Blyth Harbour).

The County Council’s acceptance of the need for separation distances between wind turbines and houses has been broadly welcomed. However, the proposed ‘6x turbine height’ formula would provide little or no protection to residents according to the Society’s experts. The evidence supports a separation distance of at least 12x turbine height.

The Society’s recommended separation distance received huge public support in the first round of consultation and is in line with separation distances being brought forward by many other English planning authorities.

Below is an interactive scalable map which you can enlarge and click onto any site of interest to obtain current status details: