Localism or not?

Mitch Cooke set-up specialist environmental planning consultancy Environmental Perspectives in 2006 having previously led the environmental planning teams for WSP and WYG. In 2012, the company became Greengage Environmental LLP.

Why is the siting of wind turbines such an emotive issue for the British?

Recently RWE npower, the German energy giant, threatened to take Milton Keynes Council to court over the Council’s plans to impose minimum distances for turbine installations from housing. The Council are suggesting that there should be a minimum distance of 1 to 1.2km, depending upon the height of the turbines, and other councils are considering the same approach.

The Milton Keynes ban could affect RWE’s plans to put 17 wind turbines on two different sites in the face of strong local opposition amid complaints that they cause noise pollution and spoil views; although the implications are more far reaching with other councils looking to follow suit.

Whilst we have a planning system which requires that these impacts are assessed and considered before permissions are granted, David Cameron has claimed the government’s planning laws “ensure that local people and their councils decide what people need”.

The legal threat suggests councils will face court battles as companies try to prove the new laws promoting “sustainable development” override local interest. This is likely to be decided in court as RWE argues the local policy is “unlawful” because the Coalition’s National Planning Policy Framework encourages generation of green energy where possible. It claims the council’s view should be “accorded no weight” in any decision making process, as it has “no rational basis”. So what should it be – a local issue around views or a national issue on security of energy?