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Wind Turbines

Volume 555: debated on Monday 17 December 2012

6. What consideration his Department has given to introducing a minimum separation distance between wind turbines and residential properties. (133600)

We have been clear that wind turbines should not have unacceptable impacts on local communities, but we have not set minimum separation distances nationally, because to do so would cut across localism.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. He will know of the concerns of many in my constituency and across Lincolnshire about inappropriate onshore wind development. It is fair to say that the localism agenda the Government have pursued has done much to involve local people in the planning process, but there is considerable support in Lincolnshire and across the country for minimum separation distances, which do a lot to encourage public support for onshore wind and allay people’s concerns. I hope that his Department will seriously consider the issue, so that he can come back to the House and tell us what he is going to do.

My hon. and learned Friend and I represent neighbouring constituencies and like him I believe that a minimum separation distance might be appropriate in our flat fenland landscape. That is why, before my appointment as Planning Minister, I supported Lincolnshire county council’s wind energy position statement and urged my planning authority to reflect it in its local plan. However, not all of England is like Lincolnshire—sadly for the rest of England—and a top-down national policy that ignored local variations in topography and local opinion would be wrong.

It is interesting to hear of the Minister’s interest in the noise and disruption allegedly caused by wind turbines. Would he therefore apply the same rule to the fans in energy from waste plants such as the one in Plymouth, which is 200 metres from people’s homes? Will he explain why the Department chose to call in two other applications for waste to energy plants but not the one in Plymouth?

The rule I would apply is that wherever possible it should be left to local authorities to make those decisions. However, there are a few cases where applications have significance beyond local authority boundaries and it is therefore impossible for one local authority to decide. In the case the hon. Lady mentions, I would imagine that that criterion was not fulfilled.