Minister backs communities on windfarm bids

ONSHORE windfarms should only be approved if the impact is acceptable to the community, a Government Minister has said.

Energy Minister Michael Fallon gave the assurance in Parliament last week following a question from Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith.

Sir Alan, whose constituency stretches down to Morpeth, says a number of people mentioned the impact of turbines on the landscape during his summer surgery tour, and there was also concern about the effect of several installations close together.

During Energy Questions in the House of Commons last Thursday, Sir Alan asked if such concerns can be taken into account in the planning process.

He said: “May I advise the Minister that while the incentives are clearly proving sufficient to encourage a number of prominent local Conservatives to apply for windfarms to be built on land in Northumberland, what concerns many of my constituents is whether landscape, which the Minister mentioned, and proximity to residences can be taken properly into account at every stage in the planning process?”

Mr Fallon said: “Yes. I want to reassure my right hon. Friend. Planning applications in respect of onshore wind should be approved only if the impacts are acceptable to the local community.

“The new planning guidance from the Department for Communities and Local Government helps to deliver the balance that we expect, ensuring that proper weight is given to the visual impact, the cumulative impact and any heritage implications for particular sites.”

After the exchange, Sir Alan said he will closely examine the new guidance.

He added: “Northumberland has landscape views of amazing beauty so the siting of windfarms has to be treated with great care by the planning authority and by the inspectors who consider appeals.

“I was glad to get some reassurance from Ministers on this.”