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Windfarms - Some common sense at last?

Monday, 17 June 2013 12:50

Changes to planning rules could help safeguard Oxfordshire, with greater weight to be given to protecting landscapes and increased investment in local communities.

The Government is signalling a change in planning rules for windfarms which may mean that there will be fewer of them in the kind of landscapes where they cause the most blight, and where low wind speeds make them barely profitable, even with the huge subsidies we are forced to pay their operators through our electricity bills.

Wind turbine developers have always argued that wind turbines are less (that’s right, less) visible in open countryside as the eye has other places to look – and have specialised in producing wide photographs with tiny seeming turbines in the middle for planning documents to make the point. The fact of course is that turbines draw the eye and the more open the landscape, the wider the area over which eyes can be drawn. The Industry has been much criticised for these misleading photographs, but up to now Government guidance to planners has supported the developer’s view that turbines are least harmful in the very landscapes where they are most visible. Now, planners are apparently to be told to give equal weight to flat landscapes, too late unfortunately to save East Anglia, but hopefully in time to give some protection to Oxfordshire where the march of the turbines has hardly begun.

Developers are also to be told to give communities that would be harmed £5000 per megawatt per annum of installed capacity. In simple terms this means that developers will have to pay out a fixed amount every year, whether the turbines generate electricity in significant quantities or not. Whilst it cannot be right that a small community could be bribed to let turbines blight the typical 225 square miles of views that belongs to all of us, this new measure should make turbines unprofitable in low wind areas, where the harm they do is least offset by the renewable electricity they produce.

Since Oxfordshire is a largely flat, low wind inland area, both measures should benefit us.

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