An environmental group has slammed plans by South Ribble Council to ‘ban’ wind turbines in the borough.
Friends of the Earth has blasted the council’s policy to keep wind turbines at least 1,000m away from houses.
A draft planning guidance document for renewable energy proposes a 1km ‘separation distance’ between residential properties and wind turbines, despite there being no national guidance to support it.
Campaigners have warned the policy could leave the council liable to pay the costs of appeal if the new separation ruling is used to reject an application for a turbine.
Helen Rimmer, from Friends of the Earth, said at a full council meeting last week: “We have very serious concerns about this recommendation, and it won’t stand up in any appeal.
“Last month, a planning inspector ordered another council to remove a policy on separation distances from its local plan.
“We want to see progressive, positive policies, and this is going in entirely the wrong direction.”
The group also argued that the move will harm small-scale applications, such as by farmers and community-owned projects.
Marion Seed added: “I come from a farming background so I’ve seen the energy bills, and they’re horrendous.
“It’s just amazing that a public authority can be forcing people who are trying to run businesses to rely on the big energy providers.”
Outside of the meeting, Dot Kelk, from Central Lancashire Friends of the Earth, added: “We’re very disappointed that some councillors are refusing to listen to the evidence on the benefits of wind, which is an efficient and cheap form of renewable energy.
“We’re concerned this document will put off farmers and communities who may wish to produce their own clean energy.”
Labour councillors also backed the campaign group’s protests at Tuesday’s meeting, saying the policy was contrary to national planning guidance.
Coun Cameron Crook, who also sits on the planning committee, said: “There are lots of myths and misinformation about wind turbines, and I have always been very supportive of them.
“It’s been said openly that South Ribble doesn’t want turbines anywhere in the borough.”
Coun David Howarth, leader of the Liberal Democrats in South Ribble, added: “Fossil fuels will eventually run out. Without renewables, we’re not going to have fuel in the future.
“We won’t be supporting this document.”
But one resident, who has fought against wind turbine applications in the borough, said the policy showed the council’s commitment to the residents of South Ribble.
Council leader, Conservative councillor Margaret Smith, said the decision had been made to include the ‘guidance’ separation distance after a public consultation.
She said that 78 per cent of the 88 residents who responded supported the 1,000m distance, while 16 per cent actually wanted to see an even larger distance.
“We do welcome the comments by the Friends of the Earth, and we will take them on board,” she said. “We did go out to consultation and we had an overwhelming response from people saying they don’t want wind turbines near to where they live.”
She also mentioned occasions where appeals were lodged against the council’s decisions to turn down wind turbines, which were shot down by planning inspectors.
The Ministry of Defence argued the turbines would affect aviation technology, and the inspector also refused an appeal because of a turbine being located in greenbelt land.
Coun Smith added: “The council acknowledges that there is no national guidance to support the separation distance. It is intended to be flexible and as a starting point for discussion.
“We accept that turbines can be sited closer to properties with no adverse affects, and they will be judged on a case-by-case basis.”
But Labour’s Coun Paul Foster argued: “You say it can be negotiated but if this policy goes ahead, you will always fall back on it.
“This has opened up a campaign against wind turbines. South Ribble’s MP has herself said that there will be no wind turbines in South Ribble; that’s what we’re up against now.”
The policy was passed with a vote of 27 to 16, with one councillor abstaining.
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