County Council to consider policy on large wind turbines and wind farms
Thursday, 17 January 2013
A report that sets out Hampshire County Council's proposed position on large wind turbine and wind farms on Council-owned land will be considered on 24 January 2013.
The Executive Member for Policy and Resources, Councillor Ken Thornber, whose function includes strategy for the use of resources such as Council owned land, will be asked to consider a position statement.
The decision by Council Leader, Councillor Thornber, will be in relation to the Council's role as a landowner in Hampshire, and it would provide clear guidance for scheme promoters. It also aims to recognise the often conflicting objectives between the benefits of wind power in providing clean renewable energy, and the visual and amenity impact on Hampshire's outstanding, high quality landscapes and countryside. These are important economic assets in their own right, as well as being a key aspect of the character of Hampshire.
Almost half of the County's overall landscape is protected as a result of its landscape or biodiversity importance; encompassing the New Forest and South Downs National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the North Wessex Downs, Cranborne Chase, West Wiltshire Downs and Chichester Harbour as well as a host of nature conservation sites. Outside these areas, landscapes are still sensitive to development including wind turbines or wind farms, as these are often tracts of undeveloped land between areas of existing development, or small-scale, ancient landscapes with tranquil character. The management of the County Council's rural estate, which is mostly farmland or land managed for countryside access, contributes to the character of the County's landscape and to quality of life for Hampshire residents.
The report to be considered highlights that large wind turbines and wind farms are major developments (an average on-shore wind farm of eight, 100metre high turbines can cover an area equivalent to 220 football pitches), and their introduction within rural Hampshire would have a significant impact in the countryside, and on the County's historic character. It is also considered that at present, the business case generally does not support large on-shore turbine developments, though in the future, there could be improvements to the design, technology, efficiency, operation and cost of wind turbines, which could make them a more attractive option. Therefore the County Council's position is to be kept under close scrutiny.
Councillor Thornber said: "We are completely signed up to the benefits of secure, affordable and low carbon energy and are already exploring a number of options within the Energy Strategy agreed by Cabinet at the end of last year, that would ensure Hampshire has future access to sustainable and secure energy sources. Plans are moving forward to create a District Energy Network (DEN) in Winchester to reduce carbon emissions, save money, and help reduce the energy consumption of major organisations, such as the hospital, the University, Winchester Prison, and the County and City Councils. On-shore wind power is not the only source of low carbon energy.
"The County Council is a significant landowner in Hampshire and we have a duty to ensure our land is used responsibly in the wider public interest. It is important that we carefully consider the benefits and impact of large scale wind turbines on our land, whether they might come at the expense of Hampshire's character and environment, and if they justify the loss of some of Hampshire's most prized undeveloped countryside."
The County Council is not the Local Planning Authority for wind turbines or wind farm development, and has no responsibility for making planning policy, nor for deciding planning applications for wind turbines or wind farms.
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