Can turbines cut my electric bill?
THE Government announced the other day that new planning guidelines will give people a much greater say over wind farms in their area, shifting the balance of power to local communities.
On the other hand, households will also get a generous reduction in their energy bills if they allow wind farms to be built nearby. For some families, this could help them save up to £400 a year.
To quote Conservative Central Office: "New planning guidance will make clear that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities. It will give greater weight to the concerns of local people about the visual impact on the landscape.
"Where local councils have identified areas suitable for wind farm projects they will not be obliged to give planning permission if they think the impact on the local area will be unacceptable.''
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Wind turbines have long been a contentious issue in this county, and quite often, Cornwall Council's planning councillors have heeded the concerns of residents and turned wind farm applications down.
But what happens then? Applicants lodge an appeal and Government-appointed planning inspectors overrule the council and allow them to go ahead.
Ask residents in Withiel for instance about the number of turbine applications refused consent by Cornwall Council, but which are now rotating in their parish.
Or how about the giant turbine that is looming over Bodmin near the A30 junction. That was refused consent by the local authority, was erected anyway, and then approved on appeal by a Government planning inspector. It's all very well for the Government to tell local authorities like Cornwall Council it can refuse consent for turbines if the development has a negative impact on an area, but Eric Pickles should really have a word with his inspectors and give them new guidelines.
I'm a bit of a fence sitter when it come to turbines and solar farms, but I would support communities who don't want them near their homes.
Having said that, I have just received a whopping gas and electricity bill. Latest figures show 125,000 people in Cornwall and Devon are struggling to pay their energy bills, and I could soon join them.
The question is, how long will it take for renewable energy to reduce the amount we have to pay for electricity? Perhaps the answer is never. Certainly there is nothing on the horizon right now.