Steve Barclay MP today welcomed planning changes which will give people a greater say over wind farm developments in their local communities.
The new guidance means that residents will have earlier involvement in plans to locate turbines near their homes and a greater say in planning decisions. The changes to council planning guidance will ensure that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override concerns over the impact on local communities.
Today’s announcement comes as local campaign group FenRATS awaits the results of an appeal launched by Wind Ventures Ltd, who applied to build six 126 metre high turbines between Gorefield and Sutton St James.
Responding to a question from Mr Barclay on the changes, Minister for Communities and Local Government Mark Prisk confirmed that the new rules would apply to ongoing planning appeals including cases where enquiries had finished taking evidence, opening up the possibility that concerns raised by Wisbech residents could be given extra consideration.
Mr Barclay has written to the planning inspector for the Tydd St Giles development to draw his attention to the need to give greater weight to the views of the local community as outlined in the new guidance.
The Local MP, who gave evidence to the Wisbech planning enquiry said: “The new rules are great news for residents living in rural communities like Fenland who have felt for a long time that their concerns about the impact of wind turbines on the local area are losing out to vested interests and the financial clout of big developers.
“These changes are a real boost for groups like FenRATs, who are still waiting to find out if their brilliant campaigning efforts have paid off. Today’s announcement will give greater weight to landscape and visual impact concerns, which can have a major affect upon rural areas.
“The new rules make clear that the concerns of local communities are a vital part of the planning process and ensure that they do not feel bullied into accepting proposals they do not want.”
The legal guidance set out by the Department for Communities and Local Government specifically highlights the Fens as an area where local topography-such as the flat Fenland landscape- can have a significant bearing on the visual impact of Wind Farm developments.
Following the amended guidance, the law will be changed to make consultation with local communities compulsory for the more significant onshore wind projects, before planning permission is applied for.
A decision on the Wind Ventures appeal on its proposal to build wind turbines at the Treading Bank Site is expected later this month.