Open Letter to Planning committee

Dear Committee member,

Global warming is already upon on us.  We can no longer stand-by and do nothing.

On June 16th you will be asked to make a decision that will have an effect on us, our children and our grandchildren.  You will be asked to ban the community wind farm at Bullington Cross.  But this is a decision that must be made in light of all the available evidence and a decision that weighs all the benefits against the costs.

You have received a 161 page officer’s report on the costs of the Bullington Cross Wind Farm.

It concludes that the planning application for a community wind farm should be refused.  Yet the report does not fully address the benefits the wind farm will bring to both our local community and to the wider environment.

In short the report is one-sided, short-sighted and subjective.

Our local responsibilities

Our government has made it clear that as a nation we need to reduce our carbon emissions by 20% by 2020; to do this we need to produce 30% of our electricity from low carbon and renewable sources.  We in Winchester, Basingstoke and Test Valley are falling woefully short of our target. Today less than 2% of our energy is from local renewable sources.

It is only fair and just that we in Basingstoke, Test Valley and Winchester do “our bit” to reduce the impact we all have on our environment. We have that responsibility to ourselves and to future generations.

The benefits are significant

Wind farms are quiet, efficient, inexpensive  and clean.

Wind farms do not emit Nitrous and Sulphur Dioxide, which destroy plant life. They do not produce soot, particulate matter or fly ash; which blackens our lungs. Wind farms do not burn imported and expensive coal, gas and oil that creates the Carbon Dioxide which is warming our planet. They do not release radioactive materials.

These are points that are well understood and accepted by all three councils.  All have policies in place to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, to encourage the development of renewables and to reduce the chances of catastrophic global warming.

The benefits are local

The benefits are clear and they accrue to the local community. The wind farm will;

  1. Be in partial community ownership and will deliver over £4 million in cash that will be invested in local renewable energy projects and in reducing the impact of fuel poverty in our community.
  2. Reduce the massive £1 billion a year we spend on fossil fuelled energy.
  3. Create local jobs.
  4. Provide enough electricity to power 15,100 (or 8%) of our homes.
  5. Reduce our carbon footprint by 26,000 tonnes a year.
  6. Provide more than £5 million in additional rates over its life time.

Wind farms are popular

Our community owned wind farm is popular.  2,845 people have submitted supporting comments as part of the planning process.  The vast majority of these supporters live in our local community.  As far as we know this level of support is unprecedented for any wind farm application in the UK.  Seventy percent of the UK population want on-shore wind farms.

We need action; not excuses

Our planners have produced a report that does not balance the costs against the benefits.  It gives seven main reasons why we should sit on our hands and discard the benefits of wind farming and ignore the threats of global warming.

  1. It says there is not enough evidence on the ecology. The  RSPB have no objection to the farm. At the council’s own request a full EIA was completed.  Any ecological damage can be mitigated. The biggest threat to our ecology is global warming and flooding.
  2. It says we should do nothing because of heritage. English Heritage has no objections and concludes all major effects are “mitigatable”.   The site is at the cross roads of two of the county’s busiest roads. This is not a heritage site.  The nearest village is 3kms away.
  3. They say the turbines look ugly.  This is a purely subjective view.  Most of us think they are acceptable.  Many think they are beautiful. Indeed it is a dangerous road to travel if we decide we must ban anything that is deemed ugly by planning officials.
  4. It says we should do nothing because of landscape amenity. Yet according to our planners this is an area that is heavily used by low flying military aircraft. It surely cannot be both. The biggest threat to our landscape is global warming.
  5. It says that there is a danger to aviation; yet neither the CAA nor NATS objects. The council’s own commissioned report on aviation concludes there will be no adverse effect on flying.
  6. It says that it will interfere with low flying.  The report does not point out that the Southern England low flying area covers 12,500 sq kilometres.  Bullington Cross will deprive the military of just 4.42 sq km (or 0.03%) of this area. A small price to pay.
  7. It says the wind farm may interfere with MOD radars. It will. But this can be mitigated.  The developers have agreed to do this as a condition of gaining planning consent.

We need an informed decision. We need a brave decision.

Planning decisions are never easy.  But they need to be based on a balanced representation of the facts.

The report before you has not balanced the costs with the benefits; it has only given reasons to do nothing; it has not provided us with the reasons why we must act. And why we must act now.

Wind farms are not perfect. But we need to act fairly and equitably and ensure we do what is required to produce the renewable energy we need. And we need to ensure that the benefits of renewable energy projects are shared with local communities.

Coming up with reasons to ban community owned renewable energy is not how a responsible council should act; making decisions based on partial evidence is wrong.

Councillors – we have a very simple choice in North Hampshire.  On the one hand we can generate our electricity from clean renewable modern technology or, on the other. we can continue to rely on dirty, expensive and imported fossil fuels.

The choice is yours.

Yours sincerely

Martin Heath

On behalf of Hampshire Renewable Energy Co-operative Ltd

 

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