Thursday, 29 May 2014

Hyndburn Windfarm extension Public Consultation a week Tuesday (3rd)

I was asked on Twitter what my feelings are on this application and I thought I'd jot down some issues that people may consider at the public meeting.

Aesthetic. Does it spoil the countryside or doesn't it? There are mixed views on this and it is a bit like marmite. Of those expressing an opinion I have to say, they tend to fall into loathing or liking and I'd take a guess there is no clear majority. Will adding 4 more make any visual difference? Everyone will have their own view.

I personally don't mind them and standing underneath them as I have done is quite something. If we are going to say turbines are a blight then why isn't their a similar campaign to get rid of electricity pylons. They are unsightly by comparison.

Subsidy. The current twelve 12 turbines I believe receive a subsidy somewhere in the region of 40% ( I was told higher but I don't have any actual figures) which is very high. However they will last for 25 years and the question also has to be asked - and I put this to John Redwood in the House of Commons - what will be the price of the gas then and crucially, will the UK have energy security or be threatened by Putin's Russia and volatility in countries that provide oil and gas?

Then there is the thorny question of base load and storage. In short we can't store electricity in huge quantities, we need it on tap and if the wind isn't blowing there's no electric. However it is reasonable to presume - and one hi-tech Accrington company I believe is developing compression technology - that mass electricity storage will be possible in the future.

Environment. There is a clear advantage to wind in this respect. Once built, it requires no fossil fuels or any other investment. It localises energy rather than the long distances from large electricity producers to customer's on the national grid where significant energy is lost in transmission.

Developing wind farms also allows us to advance our knowledge and in the long run reduce costs. It's just a shame Germany is the home to green jobs and green technology.

One big plus has been the reversal of the destruction of the peat more. Over decades of use it was drying out, destroying the peat as I understand and needed to be re-flooded. Money form the wind farm has led to the funding of improvements in water retention and removal of man made water drainage (for sheep farming I presume) have eroded the land. 

Access. There is also a big issue around access. There is none. The previous Council did not negotiate any and EnergiKontour only lease the land of several private land owners with no access rights. This is wrong. Anyone who has I presume trespassed like I have will appreciate the hardcore 'roads' that connect the turbines have opened up the Oswaldtwsitle moor.

From an inaccessible site to a walkers paradise. From the top you can see Blackpool Tower. Its not a long walk but it's solid, doesn't require walking boots, exercises the lungs. When you consider the ill-health the site should be become a local nature area with pen access to the public. It truly is fantastic. I have already made my feelings known on this issue to Prospects, the Council and EnergiKontor. Access is a big issue.

Baxenden. Clearly there was a local impact of he twelve turbines. The weak Winter Hill TV signal was refracted/distorted and it knocked out Free-to-Air TV to thousands of households. The Council had failed to set aside compensation from the developer for any problems that needed mitigation. The science says perversely the peaks and troughs of signal will be flatter with more turbines cancelling each others refraction out.

Having had to intervene on the issue last time, it is important that new Labour Council takes into account these past mistakes and ensures there is scope in the 106 for any mitigation, seen or unforeseen.

Community payments or 106 monies. Under the last development agreement for the twelve turbines, it was agreed to give Prospects Foundation £100,000 each year. I have spoke with Prospects and questioned their ability a small voluntary charity to deliver big green energy changes in Hyndburn. In my view it would have been better if a partnership had been established between the Council and Prospects.

It's just a thought but for example subsidies for solar panels to Hyndburn residents? We have numerous public and charitable buildings, think of churches where Solar PV would generate savings for Hyndburn's community organisations. Subsidies for insulation or installation of community combined Heat and Power units to get the renewable energy ball rolling locally and save residents money? Or the installation of ground source heat pumps to kick start their uptake? Big projects that will take Hyndburn forward in an uncertain energy world.

It will be the planning committee that has the final say but it will be the executive who make these agreements prior to that final decision. I am just glad it is Labour Council and that the leader is well aware of these issues.

Windfarm policy. Putting turbines up the most windy of places you would have thought is obvious. Oswaldtwistle moor is windy.

I have with Labour colleagues asked for a draft planning policy that prohibits small single turbines on non-windy sites and their sporadic development. If we are to invest in wind one site should be chosen, not everywhere. We don't want all the hills of Hyndburn splattered with a random assortment of small turbines that produce a fraction of the energy that a commercial development would produce.

Finally. This application will be given to the Mod as a consultee. The same MoD who last year turned down a large wind turbine application from a farm right underneath the existing twelve on the ridiculous grounds that it would interfere with flight paths of military planes from Wharton. This current application protrudes more into the skyline so it will be interesting to see the MoD response to this submission for four more.

I probably haven't covered all the issues but here are just some that I thought important as the application progresses.

The advert for the consultation is below.