The Campaign to Protect Rural England recently invited  three experts to discuss tensions between the need for renewable energy and the need to protect the countryside.

A big divide in opinions was revealed:

Simon Roberts, (Chief Executive of the Centre for Sustainable Energy) put forward the view of the industry and said it was important to develop ‘low carbon localism’ which involves talking about “how more of the benefits of change accrue locally” – by which he means offering  cheap electricity to those living closest to proposed wind farms. But the rest of us, people who aren’t “locals”, are entitled to be very wary of such an approach. If the setting of a scheduled monument is to be compromised it surely should be due to a weighing of the pros and cons using national criteria, not because the locals have been effectively “bribed”!

However, the other two contributors took a different, less scary view and both identified what is surely a current problem and the way forward:

David Baldock (Executive Director of the Institute for European Environmental Policy) pointed out that:
There is not a simple or universally accepted way to measure the impact of onshore wind on the landscape. This is compounded by a lack of guidance in the new English planning regime to determine these impacts

and Lyndis Cole (Principal of Land Use Consultants) said much the same thing:
“It is important that we use the tools available for creating a robust landscape evidence-base for guiding the location, siting and design of these development”.

An evidence-base would certainly be beneficial as it would facilitate a greater emphasis on precedents when making decisions. It’s pretty clear from recent cases that greater consistency between decisions is needed. Hopefully then, that will be the way forward for balancing the needs for green energy and the need to conserve. But please, no local bribes!