Public support for onshore wind turbines is higher than ever.
A survey for the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy shows that 76 per cent of people back the development of onshore wind, and only seven per cent are opposed to it. Some 66 per cent say they would welcome large-scale renewable energy development in their area.
Contrast these findings with the view reported on your front page, and you cannot help but wonder which planet the Northumberland and Newcastle Society inhabits. Sadly, the UK Government seems to live off-world too.
As your article stated, onshore wind proposals have to meet several demanding criteria, such as having community support; being sufficiently distant from houses to prevent visual intrusion, blade flicker and noise; and causing no damage to areas of landscape value.
The Northumberland Local Plan also imposes requirements concerning safety of aviation, interference with radio and TV reception, minimum distances from roads and railways, provision for decommissioning, and effects on medium and long-range views.
This is quite a daunting set of prerequisites and sets the bar much higher than for fracking, which the Government is considering permitting automatically, regardless of local opinion (in the same survey, only 17 per cent support fracking).
The survey also reports that 74 per cent of people are very or fairly concerned about climate change, rising to 86 per cent for some social groups. Perhaps recent heat-waves around the world, and wildfires not just in Spain, Portugal, Greece, California and Russia, but as far North as Canada and Sweden, have convinced even more people that climate change is upon us. It is.
So we are faced with a choice. Either climate change proceeds apace and we sit on our hands, or, more likely, get to feel better by doing a little, but not nearly enough, to mitigate it, or we act as a matter of urgency (long overdue).
Wind turbines in Northumberland clearly won’t prevent a global phenomenon, but every community, every city, every county and every country can strive to make its contribution.
Let’s be cool-headed about this and avoid using borderline hysterical phrases such as being ‘swamped’ by a ‘tidal wave’ of applications for turbines across ‘vast swathes’ of Northumberland. Such fears are baseless. The county’s planners and councillors are not about to surrender our landscape to an uncontrolled invasion of rotating monsters.
A wind speed map of Europe shows that the most effective locations for wind turbines in the UK are Scotland and Northumberland. This conflicts with the society’s claim that Northumberland has a ‘poor wind resource’.
The society boasts about its five-year effort to frustrate wind farm proposals, including lobbying and legal challenges. Members of the society include many local worthies, but they don’t represent the public and they don’t seem unduly concerned about the welfare of future generations.
I share their passion for the Northumberland landscape, but the society’s campaign ignores the greater threat. Given a choice between wind farms and a burning Kielder Forest, I know which I’d opt for.
Northumberland is in a position to make a greater contribution to wind energy in England than any other county. Let’s celebrate this, rather than misdirect our efforts in resisting attempts to avoid the worst that climate change can bring down upon us.