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Keith Davidson, Head of Environment PSL at LexisNexis looks at the latest court decisions on wind turbine developments and questions why many “environmentalists” place more importance on landscape enjoyment than the urgent need for emissions reduction.
The need for clean energy
Onshore wind is the UK’s largest source of renewable energy generation. Wind farms help to reduce CO2 emissions, provide energy security and contribute to the local and national economy.
The Committee for Climate Change has warned that we need a “step change” in renewables deployment to meet the UK carbon budgets and climate targets.
To encourage the transition to clean(er) energy (renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage), the government has introduced a fast track planning process for major infrastructure projects and a new financial framework with contracts for difference to replace the renewables obligation.
Not in my back yard
Despite the clear environmental and economic benefits, wind farms are opposed by many environmentalist and local pressure groups.
[Christopher James Holder v Gedling Borough Council 2014 EWCA Civic 599]
[Victoria Glynne Gregory and Welsh Ministers  EWHC 63 Admin]
Why do environmentalists oppose the wind developments?
The above cases relate to single turbines rather than large windfarm projects. However, there are many common concerns, including damage to landscape quality, noise nuisance, the impact on birds, the effect on the local economy and the precedent for further applications.
In the latest Powys case, campaigners against the wind turbine argued that the Council has an overwhelming obligation to protect the area for “future generations”.
This is where the “environmental” arguments against wind turbines lose credibility.
Wind farms and other forms of renewable energy are essential for future generations and the future prosperity and energy security of the UK.
Dilemma for environmentalists and policy makers
In 2009 Ed Milliband (as Climate Change Secretary) said that opposition to wind farms should become as socially unacceptable as failing to wear a seatbelt.
The greater environmental goals need to prevail, although this is controversial with residents at Powys, who are concerned about overhead pylons.
Britain’s biggest windfarm inquiry
Powys County Council has been at the centre of environmental battles for the last three years with the planned 50 megawatt large scale windfarm developments at Llaithddu, Llandinam, Llanbrynmair and Carnedd Wen.
The Council’s £2.8 million public inquiry closed in May and the final decision is expected later in the year.
Who will come out on top – local residents, CPRW (the Campaign to Publicly Rubbish Wind) or the environment?
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