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12th April 2012

WEST DORSET: Strategy could still result in wind farms

COUNTRYSIDE campaigners have criticised the latest draft renewable energy strategy for Dorset.

CPRE Dorset say the policy could still pave the way for hundreds of wind turbines in the county and takes little account of Dorset’s beautiful landscape.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) group in the county is now calling on local people to read and comment on the policy before the end of June deadline.

CPRE Dorset chairman Richard Nicholls said: “County councillors seem to be labouring under the impression that the majority of people in Dorset welcome wind turbines but this is not our experience and we are appealing for people to make their voices heard.

“If those who oppose wind turbines in our spectacular and much-loved landscape do not speak up we could end up with hundreds of industrial-scale wind farms.”

He is also critical that the document has been sent to only a limited number of organisations with an invitation to endorse the draft strategy. 

Mr Nicholls says CPRE also questions the timing of the county council cabinet’s approval of the strategy, just days before the start of the appeal over four wind turbines at Alaska Farm, East Stoke near Wareham.

At the cabinet meeting only one councillor, Andrew Cattway, voted against the draft renewable energy strategy. He questioned the criteria which had been used by consultants to draw up the possible number of wind turbines which might be needed, based on 2007 figures.

“We could see a large number of industrial-scale wind turbines as a result of this strategy paper.

“CPRE quote 360 and, if I recall, the previous draft paper gave a figure of 180.”

Cabinet environment spokesman Cllr Robert Gould said the paper was a non-statutory document which had been changed from the original as a result of 186 responses from organisations and individuals.

“The impact of wind farms have been considered and it needs to be remembered any applications will be tested by the planning process and through local plans which we hope local people will engage with.” 

Cllr John Wilson, the cabinet’s sustainability champion, described onshore wind farms as “the least desirable option we have to face” and said he hoped that other technologies, such as biomass would limit the need for turbines in Dorset.

Planning officer Antony Littlechild said the figures in the strategy were not hard and fast : “The strategy is not intended to prescribe each technology, they will come forward and be tested by the planning process. whatever numbers you put in there is, to some extent, irrelevant. It was the intention to examine whether the target of 15 per cent was achievable.”

His colleague Peter West told the cabinet, when talking about wind turbines: “Personally I don’t think there will be more than 30 in Dorset by 2020.

All we are trying to point out is that there is a variety of resources available. We can meet a seven fold increase – referring to current renewable energy sources in Dorset – ­ without a large number of wind turbines.”

Environment director Miles Butler told councillors that if all the other renewable energy sources were used to the maximum by the county Dorset could almost achieve the 15 per cent target of its energy use from renewables without onshore wind farms. 

But he did admit that much of the target was made up by including the Navitus Bay windfarm being proposed off the Dorset coast.

Ending the debate council leader Angus Campbell said : “We have expressed our concern that wind turbines are not appropriate for most of Dorset, if at all. We need to look at other ways of creating energy which is not detrimental to Dorset.”

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