Council can determine how far turbines are from homes

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A High Court Judge has ruled that local authorities have the power to identify minimum separation distances between homes and wind turbines.

But Lancaster City Council has said that it does not currently have any plans to adopt a minimum distance, and would continue to monitor the sensitive issue on a case by case basis.

In 2011, Lord Reay, of Whittington Hall, put forward his Wind Turbines (Minimum Distance from Residential Premises) Bill which sought to introduce minimum distances ranging from one to three kilometres, depending on the height of the turbines.

But the government said it could not support the bill, and in the meantime Lord Reay fell ill and the Bill has not been progressed any further.

At The High Court in Milton Keynes recently, Judge John Howell QC said that local authorites could identify separation distances beyond which planning permission must be granted, but should not identify areas within which turbines must be refused. Dr Mike Hall, president of campaign group FELLS, which opposes the construction of wind-turbines wherever they would damage the countryside in Lunesdale and the Lake District said: “To avoid public anger and disenchantment, it is crucial that there are reasonable safeguards to protect the amenity of wind turbine neighbours.

“This judgment shows that the law in fact supports local authorities that wish to set minimum separation distances, although it also shows that these must be designed and worded carefully.”

Andrew Dobson, head of planning and regeneration at Lancaster City Council, said: “Lancaster district benefits from a strong wind resource and will naturally attract wind energy developments.

“As a consequence the council recognizes that this is a key area of public interest.

“The council has made significant progress in developing criteria based policy which seeks to encourage sensitive and appropriate wind energy development, secures substantial benefits for the public and guides schemes to areas which are most suitable.

“Given the wide variation in landscapes, settlement patterns, and background environments within the district, and the Secretary of State’s guidance, the council does not currently consider that arbitrary separation distances are an effective way of achieving the best outcomes in the public’s interest and it is not our current intention to pursue such policy options.

“The judge also made it clear that the Secretary of State can still use his powers to veto the introduction of such distances in emerging plans and policies, and is no doubt considering carefully how to react to this decision.

“It is too soon for the council to consider a change of approach in the light of the decision, but parties such as FELLS will have the right to make representations in the next stage of consultation on the council’s Local Plan to advance their suggestions.

“In the meantime we will continue to monitor the Governments reaction and continue to ensure that all such schemes are subject to detailed scrutiny and are considered on their merits on a case by case basis.”