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In Part 1 we accused the Government of encouraging the use of bribes. Well, not accused so much as exposed – for there’s no way they could deny it. But there’s more in the new Guidance than that. This bit is crucial: “The need for renewable or low carbon energy does not automatically override environmental protections”. It says (and they’ve made similar noises lately) the playing field is to be more level and the need to meet green energy targets doesn’t automatically trump heritage protection. However, hold the champagne …..

There will be times when communities will say no thanks, we don’t want your development whatever you offer us – and the Guide ostensibly acknowledges their right to make that choice: “The views of local communities likely to be affected should be listened to”. But spot the difference: agree to a turbine and you’ll get a prize but say no and you’ll be “listened to”. Which means what, precisely? The Guidance provides no guidance on the point. Does it mean their wishes will be heeded? Or will they be listened to as one might listen to a heckler? Or a grandchild? You judge.

The Guidance says: “Local planning authorities should not rule out otherwise acceptable renewable energy developments through inflexible rules on buffer zones or separation distances.” That means one thing only: buffer zones no longer apply! Here’s a wild theory. If ever you hear anyone saying development buffer zones aren’t needed near houses or monuments it’s because they’re more pro-development than pro-houses or monuments! Defending the plan, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “Distance of itself does not necessarily determine whether the impact of a proposal is unacceptable.” No Eric, it doesn’t, but it does provide a minimum, guaranteed safeguard, one that your Inspectors couldn’t ignore, whereas abolishing buffer zones puts all the power into the Inspectors’ hands and it’s very hard for anyone to challenge their subjective judgements.

To illustrate the point with an extreme example, here’s a photograph of a monument taken by one of our members when he was in Northern Ireland last week. No need for buffer zones, eh Eric?

Image Credit: Jamie Stone, Heritage Action

Burren Court Tomb, County Down [ Image Credit: James Stone, Heritage Action ]


August 2013

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