Lincolnshire wind farm policy row blows up between county and district councillors

District councillors have defended proposed updates to central Lincolnshire’s Local Plan after coming in for criticism from a leading county councillor about potentially opening the door to allow more unsightly wind farms to blight the landscape.

Coun Colin Davie, executive member for environment and planning at Lincolnshire County Council had commented this week on publication of the green-thinking amendments to the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan: “We absolutely support a net-zero carbon Lincolnshire. As a council we are leading the way with a commitment to cut our emissions by 68% by 2025 – five years earlier than the UK Government’s plan.

“But we also have a responsibility to protect our heritage and landscape. Therefore, we cannot agree that large scale commercial wind farm developments on county land are the solution. Some of the turbines are almost 150m in height – totally at odds with the scenery valued so much by residents and visitors.

But Coun Owen Bierley, chairman of the Central Lincolnshire Joint Strategic Planning Committee and Leader of West Lindsey District Council has countered the argument, saying that every district needs to play its part in producing renewable energy for its inhabitants.

Bicker Fen wind farm. EMN-210207-101921001
Bicker Fen wind farm. EMN-210207-101921001

He says: “We have worked together, done our research, explored a range of policies and we recognise that we have to act now to consider our options. Renewable energy generation within the area must include solar and wind energy generation – and every area must play its part. It is a collective responsibility and requires a collective response.

“We understand planning can be an emotive subject but we assure you that we’ve established very clear criteria for all of the proposed policies within the scope of the plan. In respect of wind turbines, this includes landscape quality, considerations of the natural and historic environment and spatial and aviation restrictions, which take account of the County Council statement and identify the small number of areas where wind turbines could be appropriate.

“Ultimately, by being contained as a policy statement within a refreshed Local Plan for Central Lincolnshire, it does not pre-determine that anything will actually happen on the ground. Any subsequent application will have to go through rigorous local consultation and consideration by a local planning committees, if and when they come forward.

“The issues around renewable energy generation, use and storage are distinct within the broad range of topics included with this new and revised draft local plan – and we want you to consider how all of our key policies including those on housing, future use of RAF Scampton and retail all come together to provide a better environment within Central Lincolnshire for us all to flourish in the ways we live, work and enjoy our recreation.”

The eight-week public consultation period on the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan amendments has gone live today (Friday) and the authorities want to hear the thoughts of residents, businesses and partners on the plan.

The plan gives guidance to future planning decisions up to 2040 within the City of Lincoln, West Lindsey and North Kesteven. It looks at creation of jobs, homes and infrastructure the communities need.

Coun Bierley added: “Contained within the plan is a series of key policy updates, including measures to progressively respond to climate change through carbon-neutral build standards, harnessing renewable energy and encouraging sustainable transport among others.

“It is essential to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions across Central Lincolnshire every five years on a 2018 base in order to meet the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. Doing nothing is not an option as, not least because at current emissions levels, the carbon budget available to Central Lincolnshire will be fully used up in just six years’ time.

“This is why we need to seriously consider bold, ambitious and far-reaching measures.

“The policies within the Consultation Draft Local Plan promotes this approach and are appropriate, robust and supported by comprehensive research and evidence.”

The consultation ends on August 24.

Although highly supportive of measures to reduce carbon emissions in Lincolnshire, Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Dr Caroline Johnson has also criticised the emphasis on potential use of onshore wind farms within the revised plan.

She said: “I believe there are far more impactful and less intrusive ways to facilitate a move to carbon net zero in our county, including supporting the offshore wind sector, low energy homes and encouraging the use of cleaner technologies.

“Windfarms cause both noise and visual pollution, have a known detrimental environmental impact on local wildlife, and can often have an intermittent functionality inland. They could cause interference with some radar signals in low flying zones, which is an important safety issue, given the RAF presence in Lincolnshire.

“I would encourage those with similar concerns regarding windfarms to submit their comments to the consultation on the plan.”

It has already sparked concerns among resident campaign groups that had battled against wind farm proposals in their areas, such as Heckington, Fulbeck and Nocton.

Whilst the Local Plan will remain familiar, retaining broadly the same vision and objectives, there have been some policy changes and updates to consider, including:

Climate change: Following a mandate to pursue a Carbon Neutral Local Plan, a number of climate change policies have been included to help deliver this, including a requirement for net-zero-carbon homes and a framework for considering renewable energy infrastructure.

Retail: In recognition of some of the challenges facing retail the Draft Local Plan seeks to protect more local retail centres in rural areas; in the face of uncertainty in both the industry and from national policy changes allowing

shops to change use without the need for planning permission.

Housing: Reflecting new national and local needs assessments, the housing requirement of the plan has been reduced from 1,540 homes each year to between 1,060 and 1,325 homes, meeting the overall requirement of 29,150 dwellings across the plan period from 2018 to 2040.

RAF Scampton: A new draft policy, designed to safeguard the future of RAF Scampton once the site has been decommissioned, has been included. It highlights RAF Scampton as an ‘opportunity area’ and requiring a masterplan prior to any major development. The policy aims to provide a framework which will enhance and protect the area whilst remaining adaptive and responsive to future decisions on the decommission and disposal of the base.

Settlement Hierarchy and Allocations: Following a change in National Policy, sites for 10 or more homes within small and medium villages are specifically allocated which remove the need to apply growth percentages and gives greater certainty to communities.

You can view the consultation hub at https://central-lincs.inconsult.uk/CLLP.Draft.Local.Plan/consultationHome and evidence documents and policies maps are being held on the Central Lincs website with links on the homepage www.central-lincs.org.uk.