Council launches wind turbine impact study

A district council in the west of England has launched a study into the effects of wind turbines and large-scale solar farms on the communities where they are installed.

Mendip District Council said it wanted to "better understand" the impact of renewable technology on the area, and weigh up the opportunities and threats it posed.

In particular, it said the five-month study would seek to develop a technical understanding of the effects of such schemes both from resident-feedback and scientific data.

One strand of the work would see a previously-granted planning application used as a case study to examine the reality of renewable technology, once it was installed.

Mendip Council said the project had been driven by the desire "to gain an understanding of why national politicians are encouraging councils to agree to the construction of large scale wind turbines and solar farms" and to seek clarification on legal obligations the council was required to follow.

Tracy Aarons, Mendip Council's corporate manager for the built environment, said the authority was dealing with a major turbine application every other month, a marked increase from just two years ago, and that councillors felt they needed to broaden their knowledge of their planning powers.

Nigel Woollcombe-Adams, the authority’s built-environment portfolio holder, said the project could have national significance.

"Councils across the country are seeing an increasing number of planning applications for turbines and solar farms," he said.

"They can often polarise communities with conflicting claims about the benefits and negative impacts from them and conflicting legislation and guidance coming from government."

He said the project would allow councillors to cut through myths and assess facts surrounding renewable energy installations, and get a clearer picture of the where legislation that supports renewable energy sits in the planning process.

As part of the project, the council said written representations would be sought from members of the public, developers, researchers and the technology sector, and a select-committee style event will also be staged at which evidence can be given in person.

The council said a final report is due to be made in March next year.


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