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Torridge District Council leader Phil Collins looks at the wind turbine debate

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: December 05, 2013

Comments (2)

WITH the latest news on the Atlantic Array, I thought I'd talk about wind turbines.

In recent years they have been among the most disruptive items in many rural communities, sadly often dividing communities.

Look at the heated debates over the proposed Array, in the press, social media, council meetings, village halls – the list goes on.

Torridge, as the planning authority, is often criticised for permitting wind turbine planning applications in the face of local opposition. But remember, the decision on the Atlantic Array was not Torridge's to make. And with the withdrawal of the plans for the Array now, does that mean we can expect more land-based wind turbine applications?

While it is true we could refuse every one, it's hardly as simple as that. If an application is refused the applicant can either resubmit an amended one or appeal, both at no cost. Appeals are considered by planning inspectors who are not local and have no connections to Torridge.

In the past four years we have refused 21 wind turbine applications and of the 15 that have been to appeal the inspectors have passed 10 of them, with three still pending.

Costs awarded against Torridge – not including many hours of officer time – amount to £50,000. This is hardly good use of limited tax payers' money.

Not that the cost of losing an appeal is a factor in deciding to grant or refuse – it's not. An application that fulfils planning rules should be passed and those that do not should be refused.

I have come to the conclusion that wind turbines are like spiders or snakes. Some people hate spiders while others like them.

Wind turbines bring fourth similar likes or dislikes to varying degrees.

While I think the younger members of our communities may see turbines as "cool", some older residents can often look with real hatred on any application.

I believe all means should be taken to mitigate or reduce the impact of any development on local communities; perhaps this is why the Government is pushing for higher community benefits.

But we do live in the 21st century and despite successive governments knowing the issues over pollution and power consumption needs etc, the UK has not so far invested enough in finding a solution.

I believe we will end up with a host of alternative energy systems in future years – our problem is that we need them now.

Applications for wind turbines have increased by 500% in Torridge because of one main factor: the wind blows more along the west coast of the UK, due primarily to the fact the earth spins clockwise.

It's like stirring water in a bucket – the wind is dragged around the world, following in the same direction.

Link that with the fact that the higher you are the better the wind, and you see why developers want high lying sites.

No wonder Bradworthy, much to the bitter disappointment of many residents and its parish council, has been a target turbine location. It's certainly not, as someone suggested, because Torridge has actively sought developers to apply for them in that area.

It's interesting to note that the turnout in the recent Great Torrington by-election was just 19%.

If we the people of the UK do not bother to vote is it any wonder that we do not necessarily get representation that reflects the majority view?

Are the electors of this nation really bothered about wind turbines or electricity prices, are we collectively just not bothered who rules us, are we so satisfied with life that we do not care?

In Great Torrington, which now sits beside three large wind turbines and is facing more in the future, what underlying trend was there to elect their district councillor I wonder?

Was it the UKIP candidate known to oppose wind turbines? No – it was a Green candidate, well known in Great Torrington.

I find that a curious fact when I am told by some anti-wind turbine lobbyists that everyone in the rural areas is against them.

Is it any wonder that we come to planning meetings with an open mind before making a decision?

Some people do not consider climate change is a reality. While the facts are not fully known I am certainly worried what kind of world we are leaving behind for our children and grandchildren.

It is they who will have to live in a different world than we have known – it is they who will have to try and rectify it.

Society has moved on so much in a hundred years.

H G Wells' science fiction story where our future world is dominated by those living under ground farming those above ground has spooky flashes of some truth perhaps.

Whatever your views, it certainly appears that wind turbines are here for a while, as more applications are coming in which have to be determined on planning grounds, and planning grounds alone, not on local opinion.

Please do not shoot the messenger.

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2 comments

  • rolandsmith  |  December 08 2013, 6:54PM

    "Not that the cost of losing an appeal is a factor in deciding to grant or refuse – it's not." I fear Mr Collins is being somewhat economical with the truth when a Council Officer advised the planning committee last Thursday "If you refuse they could go to Appeal and you must weigh up that they could go for costs again" or words to that effect.

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  • PAWB46  |  December 05 2013, 2:27PM

    Is Philip Collin for real? This article is drivel from beginning to end. I would expect a 12 year old to compose something more cogent than this.

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