What’s the link between good housing and good wind farm developments? …Good planning

The image of a wind turbine’s swirling blades divides opinions across our nation. From the hilltops of Cumbria to the most southern tip of the Cornish coast, everyone has a personal view on wind energy and an impression in their mind of what that technology represents.

The National Trust’s position is unwaveringly clear on wind – we believe wind energy is a positive move towards reducing our carbon footprint but it should be built in the right places and at the right scale for the landscape.

Wind turbines in motion dissect a landscape of green fields in Anglesey, North Wales

Wind turbines in motion dissect green fields in Anglesey, North Wales

Knowing the Trust’s passion for cleaner, greener energy, it may seem at odds that we choose to oppose wind farms. But we believe strongly in careful planning to protect any special places from inappropriate development. Just as each housing proposal must benefit the needs and character of the surrounding area, so must each wind application be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Once an incongruous development is built on land or a landscape that holds historic significance or natural beauty, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to restore. As the National Trust’s policy is to protect special places forever, for everyone, we feel duty-bound to speak out when we feel these places are threatened.

This is why the National Trust has so fiercely opposed four wind turbines that would have overshadowed the beautiful and historic Lyveden New Bield in Northamptonshire and is calling for councils to have an extra year to engage with their communities and agree on a local development plan for their areas.

The North Front of Lyveden New Bield, Peterborough, Northamptonshire, in the evening light

The North Front of Lyveden New Bield, Northamptonshire

Shielding our special places

The best protection that we can give to our precious land and heritage is held in the planning system.

Under the Government’s new National Planning Policy Framework, if a local council and community want to have the final say on the design and location for wind turbines – or any development – they need to have an adopted Local Plan.

Why would a large energy company invest more money in the layout, design and materials used in a wind farm if the planning was not in place to demand that?

And if a council has not planned for where infrastructure should go in the local area to meet demand and Government targets, this means they have not protected where they should not go.

Why have wind turbines at all?

Climate change and changing weather patterns are threats that the National Trust takes seriously. The most important thing the Trust can do in terms of planning is to ensure we do not make decisions that make matters worse.

If planned well, wind turbines can have a positive impact on our landscape by replacing fossil fuels for clean energy and therefore contributing to reducing our carbon footprint.

Where are the places that the National Trust does approve of for wind farms?

This is a difficult question and it is not for the National Trust to identify specific sites for development. We want to help local communities to take the lead on what type of renewables schemes would benefit their area and where these should be built. Ideally being owned by the communities themselves.

In Germany, 20% of all energy is now renewable and as much is either community-led or community-owned. From cities like Freiburg to small Black Forest villages the reality is that local people have chosen to buy-in to renewables and in ways that work for them. 

This bottom-up approach must be right and as such we have recently joined a coalition of organisations  committed to working together to empower and support real community-led energy.

Find out more about the National Trust’s renewables schemes here.

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