I haven’t posted any information since March, and a lot has happened since then. A lot has changed.
Cornwall Protect met with Cornwall Council in April before the General Election with the Local Plan being the main agenda item. The main issues for us were the lack of response to our comments on the Renewal Energy Supplementary Guidance, our continuing concerns about the inconsistent administration of the planning process, and the ridiculously exaggerated Green Cornwall Strategy which not only intended to force Cornwall Council’s own turbines on communities, but also in the Case for Cornwall document outlined plans to take over the electricity distribution network! Suffice it to say we didn’t find the meeting very positive. Phil Mason, the Head of Planning, only turned up half way through the meeting, and Cornwall Councillor Mrs Hannaford provided no indication they were listening to the views of locals. Interestingly Mr Mason said Planning Officers were equally qualified to make judgements on Landscape as the Cornwall Council Landscape Architect, this explaining why they have been consistently ignoring her advice that they are creating a Wind Farm Landscape in Cornwall. These comments combined with the clear statement that they placed no limit on the number of turbines or solar panels left us feeling we were wasting our time trying to influence matters. We wondered if a change of government may be our only hope to save Cornwall from the curse of “RENEWABLEITIS“.
During the Election campaign the differences of the former coalition partners became clearer and the rhetoric of the Conservatives echoed if not repeated what local communities had been saying about lack of consultation in the planning process and the disregard for existing environmental protections. I thought this is interesting but what will it mean in practice. Cornwall Council have been consistently ignoring Planning Practice Guidance, which stressed the need for renewable energy does not automatically override existing environmental protections, for years. Therefore when Cornwall turned Tory Blue after the General Election it was a case of wait and see.
Well I have to say events since then have been gratifying. As you will have read elsewhere the scandal that is the ROCs , and Feed in Tariffs has been exposed more widely and it is with some satisfaction that we heard the bleating of the renewable energy industry as the gravy train was derailed. It still remained to be seen how the rhetoric surrounding the timetable for the removal of subsidies would influence the processing of Planning Applications. The publication of the Government Briefing Paper “Planning for On Shore Wind” on the 19th May seemed undecided about the issue of “a veto for communities” but subsequent Ministerial Guidance regarding On Shore Wind Developments on the 18th June was remarkably clear limiting possible sites to those already explicitly identified in Plans, and stating community backing was necessary,
- the development site is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in a Local or Neighbourhood Plan; and
- following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed and therefore the proposal has their backing.
Again I wondered if Cornwall Council would ignore these statements as they had done previous ones, would they find some way to get round them. Well indications are that they have had to take it on board with a recent Decision Notice for a 48m turbine on the 6th July stating one of the reasons for refusal was,
“a planning judgement has been made by the Local Planning Authority that the planning application for the proposed wind turbine does not have community backing which is contrary to the written Statement released on the 18th June 2015 from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and paragraph 14 of the Planning Practice Guidance”
I have subsequently seen this wording repeated in a Planning Officer’s report recommending refusal for another turbine. So while still not quite able to believe it, it does appear that real consultation and taking communities concerns seriously is now on the agenda, and given the appalling track record of the developers and the Council on both these fronts previously this has to be GOOD NEWS.
We wait now to see how Cornwall Council respond to the other stipulation as on our reading they have no identified development sites contained in the Local Plan or Neighbourhood Plans. Could this be the end of Turbines?