I have been contacted by a number of residents concerned about an application for four 126metre turbines at Tranwell Airfield, which would have a big impact on Stannington, Walton and the surrounding villages in my constituency.
I am on the record as being a big supporter of renewable energy. I think it is vital we invest in green technologies to head off what will be an energy crisis, as we cannot continue to rely on fossil fuels forever.
When it comes to wind I openly support offshore wind, and the small wind turbines for individual houses or individual farms, as has been used so successfully in many local farms particularly in the National Park. However, there is no question large onshore wind turbines - such as this application and the many others we have seen recently, are dividing communities.
We need an overhaul of the planning and subsidy system concerning these onshore Wind Turbines: the focus should be on building community support, perhaps through dividing revenue streams, and the provision of sustainable energy on a community basis. Until that is fixed we are going to be stuck in this planning cul-de-sac, with random construction, which blights local communities and undermines the cause of renewable energy.
I have previously written to the Secretary of State on the matter calling for reform, and co-sponsored a 500 metre wind farm planning guidance Bill, similar to the one that exists in Scotland. Planning, of course, is a matter for the County Council, who need to come up with a definitive local plan - but have yet to do so. We need to secure our energy future but imposing these huge turbines on communities who receive little or no benefit is not the answer.
There is a meeting tonight to discuss the application at Stannington Village Hall at 7.30pm. I genuinely cannot make it myself tonight but have met other concerned residents on this issue previously. The local County Councillor Eileen Armstrong will be there. I would urge residents to go along, find our more, and communicate their concerns to the County Council.