Headlines: June 18th, 2004

Councillors and planners in the north of England will be told tonight not to sacrifice the landscape in their efforts to tackle climate change. The uncompromising message will come from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England at a public meeting it has organised at Durham County Hall.The event has been organised under the title “Wind Farms – At What Cost?” and is designed to raise public attention to the threat of wind turbines. There are currently three applications being considered for wind turbines in County Durham but the CPRE says it is aware of a further seven that will be processed, involving a total of 40 additional wind turbines in the area. CPRE has objected during the initial public consultation and is pressing for a full Environmental Impact Assessment of these schemes to be undertaken so their full effects can be considered. The campaign says the Government predicts that between two and four thousand additional wind turbines will be needed in the UK – or offshore – to meet its target of having ten per cent of electricity from renewable energy by 2010.Paul Hamblin, CPRE’s Head of Natural Resources, said climate change represented a major threat to the character and quality of the countryside and this threat had to be tackled. “But you are no less of an environmentalist for fighting to protect landscapes valued by local people, or the visual pollution caused by a badly sited renewables development,” he added.CPRE supports the move away from fossil fuel generation which is contributing to climate change, but says this should not be achieved at the expense of the countryside. It believes the most effective way to tackle climate change will be to challenge the spiralling increase in energy consumption caused by our lifestyles. This would require a step change in levels of energy efficiency, improved transport policies and better planning and design of new development. All this, the CPRE says, would reduce emissions leading to climate change, without damaging the countryside.

The Government is due to publish planning policy statement on renewable energy in the summer and the CPRE is calling for the statement to promote the reduction of overall energy consumption, to uphold the Rural White Paper commitment to protect the wider countryside and to ensure that the planning system offers the same level of protection to the countryside against damaging renewable energy developments as to any other form of development;