Wind Turbine Madness?

There are wildly differing opinions about wind turbines. Some politicians uphold the belief that they are Green, Renewable, and “A Good Thing”, while other people feel they are a blight on the countryside and harmful to wildlife.

Whatever your feelings on the subject, if someone is considering installing a wind turbine on their property, there are several rules they must abide by, not least of which is Planning Permission.

The rules for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all different. Wales and Northern Ireland require Planning Permission for ALL wind turbines. Below are the rules as obtained from the Government Planning Portal website: www.planningportal.gov.uk

In England, some permissions can be bypassed if all the listed conditions are met. This is called Permitted Development, and is deemed to be below the level at which Planning Permission – and the potential two year consultation process – are required.

The siting of the turbine, i.e. building mounted or free-standing, has a bearing on the limits imposed.

For a free-standing wind turbine to qualify for Permitted Development rights, it must not be larger than 11.1 metres tall (to the tip of the upright blade), the blades must not come closer to the ground than 5 metres, and the swept area must be no larger than 3.8 square metres.

Furthermore, the turbine must not be sited closer to the property’s boundary than the turbine’s maximum height (including blades) plus 10%.

If the property is in a Conservation Area, the turbine must not be closer to a highway than any building within the Area.

Also, the installation must comply with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme Planning Standards (www.microgenerationcertification.org) and be the only electricity-generating installation on that property. Additional or subsequent turbines will need planning permission.

However, if the property is Listed, designated as a Scheduled Monument, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in a National Park or World Heritage Site, or on safe-guarded land (for aviation purposes), planning permission MUST be sought.

In addition, the materials used for the blades must be non-reflective, the turbine must be dismantled and removed a.s.a.p. when no longer in use, and it must “be sited, so far as is practicable, to minimise its effect on the external appearance of the building and its effect on the amenity of the area”.

If any of the above limits are breached, then Planning Permission must be applied for.

The rules for Scotland are even stricter than England’s.

We have learned that some applications for turbines that do not meet these criteria are being rushed through planning, without much notice given to the neighbouring properties and communities, and thus not allowing enough time for objections to be received by the Council.

These turbines do not qualify for Permitted Development rights, and yet they are being pushed through fast, almost sneaking it in under the radar. Objection deadlines might be set only a couple of weeks from notification. The statutory length of time which Councils must allow is 21 days from the date of the newspaper advertisement, notification letter, or the site notice being displayed, whichever is the later.

Although the statutory minimum of 21 days might be suitable for a small, domestic installation with no significant impact on the wider environment, this is, in many people’s views, not a long enough period to gauge public opinion when considering an installation with a wide ranging impact.

An example of this conduct we have had notice of is the handling by Torridge District Council of the Application for an 11kW 25m wind turbine at Yelland Farm, North Devon. The turbine will reputedly be the most prominent structure in the parish.  Letters were sent out on the 21st June 2012, but not received until the 25th. The deadline for objections is 12th July 2012 – exactly 21 days after the date of the letter. The timing of this effectively evades publicity in the monthly parish magazine (too late to be included), and is at a time when many people are away on holiday or involved in end-of-term activities.

The local councillor should be lobbied if this sort of planning behaviour is being adopted by the planning officers and objections are held by the local community, as the application can be called in by the councillor to enable all factors to be considered before a decision is made.

Such objections to Wind Turbines will only be accepted by Councils if they state ‘material planning considerations’, e.g. not just because you don’t like them, or some other subjective issue. Also, duplicated letters will be rejected, so mass production of letters all signed by different people will be a waste of time and effort. Each person must write their own letter for maximum impact.

Guidance on writing good objection letters can be found by searching the internet for “wind turbine objection letter”. We note that a website has been set up with regard to the above example – www.yellandfarm.co.uk.

The opinion on wind turbines is split, but whatever your thoughts on the matter, many will be calling for a proper consultation period. Whether good or bad, wind turbines undisputedly effect the community at large and that community should have the opportunity to express their thoughts; positively or negatively.

 

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