Wind turbines: our MP's stance

North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson is to contact Cornwall County Council to express his concern at the poorly-controlled spread of single wind turbines across the country. He will also raise the possibility of a moratorium on the granting of permission for such turbines until a strategy for dealing with them has been established, but does not hold out high hopes for its success.

Three members of the Withiel Wind Turbine Action Group met with Mr Rogerson in Bodmin on Friday December 16th. Also present was local county councillor Mick Martin. It was clear that while Mr Rogerson is a strong supporter of wind power, he shares our reservations on some aspects of the proliferation of wind turbines and is prepared to take action.

We had previously sent him our ‘position paper’, carried on this website under the heading ‘A fair wind’, which sets out our reservations about the cost of wind power, its concentration in Cornwall, and the detrimental effect on the landscape. In particular it expresses concern about the proliferation of single wind turbines in Withiel Parish and the fractures they open in the community.

Mr Rogerson began by saying he “probably held different opinions on wind power” from the Withiel group, and said that Withiel residents were happy to plug their appliances into the supply while not giving enough thought to where it came from. Simon Coy, who chairs the group, suggested opinions on wind power were irrelevant; we wished to discuss only matters concerning the planning and siting of turbine towers. Pat Malone, secretary of the group, added that the Withiel area had been a net exporter of electricity for 15 years because of the St Breock Downs wind farm which dominated the Parish and was due to become increasingly dominating, so the notion that the Parish didn’t pull its weight was unfounded.

Mr Rogerson said it was important for Britain’s balance of payments that Britain generate more of its own electricity, but Pat Malone pointed out that the first £1.3 million paid to the Dingle Brothers for their new turbine tower was going straight to America, where the turbine was made. Every new turbine brought into Britain adversely affected our balance of payments; the 32,000 turbine towers postulated by the Coalition represented an enormous drag on the balance of payments.

Richard Thomas cut to the chase, saying the Withiel group was concerned that while Cornwall Council was in the process of doing an assessment of the impact of wind turbines, it was doing the assessment only after they’d been built – effectively considering whether to close the stable door after the horse had bolted. Therefore we sought three things:

-1. A delay in granting permission for turbines until the assessment had been completed.

-2. A new look at renewable energy technology. “Wind turbines are old technology,” Richard said. “I know their proponents’ position is that they’re all we’ve got, but there will be new solutions, and these turbines will stand for 20 years or more after they are obsolete.”

-3. The danger of wind turbines to be taken into account. Recent failures during high winds has highlighted their propensity for falling over, breaking up and catching fire, and situation them on the Saints Way was unwise.

Pat Malone suggested a moratorium on all permissions for wind turbines under there was a national policy, and a county planning policy, on their siting. The ad hoc nature of the current arrangement served no-one; national energy policy should be better planned.

He also suggested that feed-in tariffs for wind power would shortly have to be revisited, as with domestic solar power, and would be markedly reduced. A moratorium would allow the FIT to be adjusted before the county was blighted by a rash of random turbine towers. He added that ‘green’ was difficult to distinguish from ‘greed’ in the matter of wind turbines – it was quite sickening to see some people cloaking themselves piously in the mantle of ‘environmental saviours’ while filling their pockets with handouts, paid for by all electricity users.

Mr Rogerson suggested that a moratorium would not be possible; the county council couldn’t simply refuse to deal with certain types of planning application. Mick Martin pointed out there were shortcomings in planning strategy as regards cumulative impact with the council suggesting permissions would be on a first-come, first-served basis. ‘If the first one gets permission, and perhaps the second, the third one is likely to go to appeal if refused…”

Simon Coy raised the question of “truth in assessment” whereby self-serving visual impact assessments minimised the size of turbines and the degree to which they clash with the landscape. Mr Rogerson said this was a recognised problem which had specifically been addressed in the West Highlands of Scotland, where assessments could not paint a false picture. He agreed that Cornwall should consider a similar requirement.

Mr Rogerson said that while he supported the expansion of wind power there were problems regarding their proliferation and siting which needed to be addressed, and he would raise them with the County Council. He would write to the Council before Christmas. He would also raise the possibility of a moratorium on planning permissions, despite his own misgivings. He concluded by saying that he would rather see more community benefits from wind power generation, rather than seeing the money going to a small number of landowners.