Reviewing the impact of windfarms on tourism in Northumberland

Middlemoor windfarm, just north of Alnwick.
Middlemoor windfarm, just north of Alnwick.
  • No evidence to suggest windfarms have significant impact
  • However, studies are not up-to-date or county-specific
  • Only 16 per cent of visitors surveyed thought county has too many windfarms

A review commissioned by the county council suggests that there is no evidence to conclude that windfarms have a significant negative or positive impact on tourism, but more research focusing on Northumberland is needed.

The study was commissioned late in 2013 by Northumberland County Council to evaluate the effect of existing and planned onshore wind turbines on the tourism industry. The commission was split into two elements – a visitor perception study and a business impacts study.

The general conclusions are that there is no evidence to conclude that the development of windfarms has either a significant negative or positive impact on tourism although there could be localised impacts in terms of tourism being displaced; and the scale and rate of windfarm development in future could, if inappropriately located, change the value judgements of tourists.

It is important to note that the report is clear that there are limitations to the studies that have been reviewed, mainly concerning the age of the studies, which means that they relate to a smaller scale of wind-energy development and they were carried out in settings that are different to Northumberland.

It is recommended that it would be beneficial to carry out research in Northumberland that specifically addresses the impacts of windfarms on tourism. This would enable conclusions to be drawn that would be up-to-date and specific to the county.

The main reasons identified in the visitor perception study for visiting Northumberland are the scenery and the coastline and 11 per cent of respondents would be discouraged from visiting Northumberland due to windfarms, and 30 per cent will definitely or may be encouraged to visit somewhere other than Northumberland in the future because of the presence of windfarms.

Four per cent of respondents have been discouraged from visiting the county in the past due to windfarms, but the same percentage have visited the area because of windfarms.

Only 16 per cent thought Northumberland had too many windfarms, 41 per cent thought it has enough and 43 per cent thought that the area could support more windfarms. 61 per cent agree that a correctly-sited windfarm does not ruin or intrude on the landscape.

There is some evidence to suggest that older visitors, in particular those that value remoteness, landscape, and scenery, are the most sensitive to the visual effects of windfarm developments on the landscape. However, it was considered that in locations where this market is significant the potential negative effect on overall visitor numbers may still be low, or at worst moderate.

Young people and overseas visitors are generally well disposed towards windfarms, and tourists exposed to windfarms are less negative about them than those who have not been exposed to them.