Call for Cornwall buffer zones to keep homes and turbines apart
Detailed plans to prevent wind farms being built too close to homes and beauty spots have been revealed in Cornwall.
The council could be on course for a costly showdown with powerful energy companies by creating buffer zones of almost 1km around residential properties and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).
One of the more extreme options under consideration would represent an almost total block on any new planning permissions for large-scale wind farms – due to the Duchy's narrow land mass and scattered population.
But campaigners against the technology claim it is standard practice for developers to routinely exclude sites closer than 800m to properties in other areas and argue that enshrining exclusion zones in planning law would simply be correcting a long-standing anomaly.
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Scott Mann, councillor for Wadebridge who was recently selected to stand as a Conservative in the North Cornwall constituency in the General Election, is leading a working group on the issue.
To illustrate the effects on the landscape officers have modelled detailed maps based on minimum distances to be set at 320m, 820m and 920m.
Mr Mann said there has been a clamour for action by local people, many of whom have never joined any previous protests.
"What I am hearing from people is that they are very keen on this, and it is coming from people who have never objected to a wind farm before but are very concerned about the effects on AONBs and tourism," he added.
"It seems that the very nature of Cornwall means that if we are to operate a policy like other councils have we shouldn't have any large wind turbines.
"I could see it turning into judicial review but it is in place in other places and works in those areas."
Experts in planning policy who have battled to halt developers say the legality of local authorities creating such policies will be tested by a legal case later next year.
They say a judicial review of a decision by Milton Keynes Council to create a separation zone of 2km between turbines and homes could be a landmark.
A recent report by industry body Regen South West urged councils not to bow to pressure from campaigners to create buffer zones.
Nevertheless, many areas are pursuing policies as supplementary guidance rather than hard and fast policy.
The move has won backing from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
Bob Barfoot, North Devon CPRE chairman and a veteran of "many dozens of battles to oppose turbines in sensitive areas", said the authority should not be "frightened".
He added: "If they tried to impose a 2km exclusion zone around single turbines they may find themselves in the High Court, but there is nothing wrong with adopting standard practice for wind farms of 800m.
"If a lot of wind farm developers work on an 800m zone in other parts of the country then why should Cornwall be any different?"