February 15, 2013
Permission Refused for the Totnes Community Wind Farm
On Wednesday afternoon South Hams District Council development management committee debated whether to give permission for the construction of the Totnes Community Wind Farm. They ultimately decided to follow the recommendation in their planning officer's report on the proposal, and refused such permission. According to the council's decision notice:
The proposal would introduce two tall moving structures into a landscape void of such development and would result in significant harm to the landscape character of the surrounding area. The Local Planning Authority is not satisfied that the environmental and economic benefits of the turbines outweigh this harm.
Needless to say the Totnes Renewable Energy Society, who have been working with onshore wind farm developers Infinergy on the proposal, were not entirely happy with that outcome. According to their website:
We are naturally disappointed by the SHDC decision but not surprised. Local planning authorities don't yet have the tools to balance parochial concerns against national strategic objectives for deployment of renewable energy.
They go on to state that:
Most MW-scale planning applications are decided on appeal. Onwards and upwards!
which rather suggests that an appeal against the council's decision will be forthcoming in the near future. However when I spoke to TRESOC they told me that a decision about whether to appeal had not been taken as yet, and would be ultimately be made after discussions with Infinergy.
Something else that wasn't permitted on Wednesday was recording of the committee's deliberations. However the following record of some events both within and outside the council chamber was made:
Here's how Harberton Parish Councillor Tim Padfield summed up the issues for the benefit of the committee (from around 6:00 in the video):
Industrial devices provide to all the opponents of the turbines both their immediate surroundings and their enviable standard of living. Their televisions, toasters and hair dryers may not be crude designs, but we can be sure they've all been made somewhere over the horizon, out of sight. The electricity to activate these industrial devices also comes from power stations, over the horizon, out of sight. Some people here like it that way, defending their Arcadian idyll, none of whose practical comforts have been made anywhere near their green acres. Other people, I'm glad to say, see an opportunity to contribute back to the common good by using our local natural asset, abundant wind, to fuel the most benign and graceful technology ever devised to generate electric power.
In 1968 Garrett Hardin published an influential and now classic article entitled "The Tragedy of the Commons". This is the phenomenon that individual selfishness and greed in exploiting an asset common to all mankind eventually destroys that asset. We see this happening now in our exhaustion, over a few generations, of fossil fuel accumulated over millions of years. Now, the opponents of wind turbines are adding a further, bitter twist to this tragedy by opposing exploitation of an inexhaustible natural asset, the wind passing over our land.
Tim's final hope that:
Both electricity and a powerful message will go out from us, over the horizon.
has yet to be fulfilled. There's still that appeal to be considered of course, but for the moment the message heading over the horizon from the South Hams is that, as Tim Padfield paraphrased it:
If you can place yourself anywhere on public land where a historic structure is visible in the same field of view as a wind turbine, the turbine must go.
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