Sunday, 13 May 2012

How to resolve the Wind Turbine crisis on Ynys Môn

A resolution to the public outcry over wind turbines on Ynys Môn requires some clear strategic thinking coupled with political will.

Because of its flat landscape and the fact that Anglesey County Council has not updated its planning policies on wind energy for over a decade, Ynys Môn has over the past year been specifically targeted by wind farm developers — as testified by the extraordinary surge of planning applications for giant turbines.

Public outcry ensued and, despite having initially been caught with their pants down, Anglesey County Council did the right thing by speedily carrying out a public consultation on new wind energy supplementary planning guidelines (SPG) together with introducing a far more stringent planning 'checklist' for wind developers designed to reduce the number of speculative applications.

A leaked discussion document prepared by planning officers after the public consultation showed that planners were broadly opposed to introducing any blanket guidelines for wind turbines on Ynys Môn — including publicly supported minimum separation distances, maximum height restrictions, and the preservation of Anglesey's AONB together with a suitable buffer zone. The leaved document showed that in essence planning officers would prefer to be allowed to consider each turbine application on its individual merits. This is clearly unsatisfactory but we cannot really blame the officers as their role to merely interpret and be guided by national policy — in this case TAN 8 — and not to propose political fixes, which is the preserve of our elected Councillors.

TAN 8 is the Welsh Government's primary planning policy for wind energy, and establishes a number of geographically defined 'Strategic Search Areas' (SSAs) in which large-scale wind farms should be clustered. It also goes on to provide guidance on what local planning policies can and should be introduced by local authorities. As Ynys Môn falls outside any SSA areas, the most crucial part of TAN 8 to this discussion is as follows (emphasis mine):

"Most areas outside SSAs should remain free of large wind power schemes. Local planning authorities may wish to consider the cumulative impact of small schemes in areas outside of the SSAs and establish suitable criteria for separation distances from each other and from the perimeter of existing wind power schemes or the SSAs. In these areas, there is a balance to be struck between the desirability of renewable energy and landscape protection. Whilst that balance should not result in severe restriction on the development of wind power capacity, there is a case for avoiding a situation where wind turbines are spread across the whole of a county. As a result, the Assembly Government would support local planning authorities in introducing local policies in their development plans that restrict almost all wind energy developments, larger than 5MW, to within SSAs and urban/industrial brownfield sites. It is acceptable in such circumstances that planning permission for developments over 5MW outside SSAs and urban/industrial brownfield sites may be refused."

This essentially tells Councils that although they cannot introduce local policies which would "result in severe restriction on the development of wind power capacity" (which would, for example, rule out blanket height restrictions), they are able to introduce what would in effect become local mini-SSAs to restrict development to one area only ("there is a case for avoiding a situation where wind turbines are spread across the whole of a county"). The question therefore is: which part of Ynys Môn would be most suitable as a housing area for large-scale turbines whilst (a) providing minimum disruption to the Island's landscape and tourism industry; and (b) providing the largest possible public utility to Ynys Môn residents?

Existing wind turbines already visible from the Rhosgoch site
The answer is the 198-acre disused Shell site at Rhosgoch which was gifted to Island in the 1980s and is now administered by the Isle of Anglesey Charitable Trust. The area is fairly out of the way, close to the existing small-scale wind turbine farms in the north of the Island, and the contaminated land which has stopped any other development on the site would not be an issue for erecting wind turbines. Therefore, if a local planning policy was put in place which meant that all wind turbine applications above 15 metres tall were restricted to the Rhosgoch site, then all ground rents from these giant turbines could be captured — through the Isle of Anglesey Charitable Trust — for the public good and used to preserve the various public services, such as leisure centres, now being threatened by cuts. With just 198 acres available (not including the area several football pitches large that could be taken up by the proposed giant transformer farm on Rhosgoch to convert the wind energy coming off the Irish Sea wind from AC to DC) the administrators of the scheme would be able to auction parcels of land off in 25-year leases to developers thus even further maximising revenue.

The scheme could be set-up as a giant Social Enterprise, and even go a step further by allowing various community councils and other local groups first option to rent land, thus allowing them to erect turbines which would provide a regular income for their activities. The scheme would not affect micro-wind generation and farm diversification as smaller wind turbines of up to 15 metres tall would still be possible throughout Ynys Môn outside of the AONB.

Such a policy may be open to legal challenge by developers, but in reality such an outcome would be unlikely as any challenge would be costly and take years — during which time it is likely (bearing in mind the national public disquiet regarding wind turbines) that the current generous subsidy regime for wind energy will be ended. Developers would recognise that if they want to make money on Ynys Môn they would need to rent land on the Rhosgoch site. As per the report in this week's Holyhead & Anglesey Mail about developers 'threatening' planning committee members with appeal, it is clear that developers are keen to rush through their plans as soon as possible to escape whatever restrictions may eventually come via the revised SPG and due to any changes to national policy.

Having any giant turbines on Anglesey may be unpalatable to many residents, however the fact is that without the introduction of a scheme such as I've outlined above then there is no doubt that wind turbine will multiply throughout Ynys Môn and have a real effect on tourism on the Island (all available research shows that between 10-30 percent of holidaymakers will not return to rural areas whose landscapes have been ruined by wind turbines). However, to make such a scheme a reality requires political will and unity from Anglesey's councillors — something which would provide a perfect public showcase for their strategic thinking and care for the Island as the Commissioners prepare to start handing power back to them from October onwards. It would also make 'Energy Island' a far more intelligent concept as a share of money generated from energy schemes on the island would be directly captured for the wider public good.

25 comments:

Shambo said...

Sounds more like conflict than crisis. Not exactly a new phenomenon in Ynys Mon.

The Red Flag said...

A perfectly sensible solution. However do any of the councillors have a potential financial interest in this solution being a non-starter? If so that's exactly what it will be.

Prometheuswrites said...

Thoughtful Post. That's good big picture thinking. Commercial investments that entail ongoing community support and making 'public good' are a sensible way forward in these times of reduced public spending; provided a measure of constitutional control, of the facility being invested in, is retained by the community/public.

Anonymous said...

"all available research shows that between 10-30 percent of holidaymakers will not return to rural areas whose landscapes have been ruined by wind turbines"

Citation needed?

Also needed, comparable figures for the number of tourists who would not return to areas whose land(scape) has been ruined by nuclear installations?

Whatever happened to Energy Island anyway? Anglesey talks about it, the Isle of Wight gets on with it.

http://www.eco-island.org/

http://www.utilityweek.co.uk/news/news_story.asp?id=196145&title=Isle+of+Wight+smart+energy+island+project+launches+in+Westminster


"An initiative to make the Isle of Wight a smart energy hub, involving utility firms, smart grid technology providers and fuel cell companies was officially launched in Westminster today.

The EcoIsland project aims to make the Isle of Wight a net exporter of energy within the next eight years. Bills for the island's 142,000 residents will be cut by half through increased use of renewables and 'creative' tariffs. A spokesperson was unable to confirm whether that meant using time of use tariffs. Another goal is to reduce waste to landfill to zero. Some £200 million of private funding has already been raised to deliver initial projects on the island.

Companies involved in the project include Southern Water, SSE, Cable & Wireless, IBM, Toshiba, Vestas and Co-operative Energy."

Paul Williams said...

Anon 00:52:

Below is the relevant section from the literature review on the effects of wind turbines on tourism prepared by Anglesey Council's own tourism department:

"Possible effect on future visits

While reaction to wind turbines in the landscape is clearly important, a more significant indication of possible impacts on tourism is the extent to which tourists believe that the presence of wind turbines may affect the chances of making return visits. There is some considerable variation between the studies in this respect.

The Scotland 2008 study found that 96% of tourists interviewed were not affected by the current level of turbines in considering a future return visit to the area, with this reducing only to 93% even when presented with images of expanded wind farms.
This positive result is at variance with the evidence from the internet survey within the same study, which found 18% saying they would not visit an area with a windfarm.

In Ireland 2007 75% said that expansion in wind farms would have no affect on a decision to come back. In the Wales 2003 study 77% said that if the number of wind farms increased this would make no difference to their likelihood to take holidays in Wales, while the equivalent figure in Scotland 2002 was slightly lower.

Some other studies also provide relevant results. In the Lake District National Park boundaries study conducted in 2003, 22% of tourists said they would visit less often if the wind farm proposals went ahead. By contrast in the study in Argyll (2002) 91% said wind farms make no difference to them. A similar result was reported in a study in North Devon (UWE, 2004), where 94% said they would not be discouraged from visiting the area if there was a windfarm, and in the Czech study (around 90% likely still to return)."

kp said...

Another example of the stupidity of our typically crass councillors and council wannabe's.

For sure wind farms might well prove off-putting to tourists. But how many right minded tourists want to spend their holidays on 'Energy Island'.

The idiotic thinking persists.

As for the suggestion that it is the preserve of our councillors to manage 'political fixes', I think not.

Gruntfuttocks said...

It would be interesting to see how a certain councillor with an interest in wind turbines on Ynys Mon would react to a wind farm at Rhosgoch which would be in full view of his large "councillor" house and no more than ah couple of miles from the Shell site! It would indeed test his commitment to these monstrosities when they are within striking distance of his house. What odds that the NIMBY view would prevail
?

228FPA said...

I wouldn't trust our politicians to oil a wheelbarrow

Anonymous said...

Let them build it, within a couple of months they will all be taken down, dismantled and sold off, cash in hand, just like the tank farm was.................Shell Fund, don't make me laugh, you mean Slush Fund!

Cllr Barrie Durkin. said...

228FPA.
Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Cllr Barrie Durkin.

Ice Cold in Alex said...

In principle a good idea, however -

I'm yet to be convinced that there has been a significant public outcry against windfarms.

The island isn't really that flat as compared to say the Netherlands, a trip along the A55 would show you that.

The research you quote (in comments) shows that the majority of tourists do not think that wind farms would discourage them from returning. Also in the research from Ireland; that I also quote in my blog, shows that tourist would rather prefer one large wind turbine rather than smaller wind farms

As to the former Shell depot at Rhosgoch, how many turbines did you think you could fit in on the land?

From my quick search on Google it's between 1 per 30 acres to 1 per 114 acres depending on height and output. Which means for Rhosgoch between say 7 and 2 turbines.

Not really a wind farm is it up to 7 turbines?

And lastly not to mention conflict of interest with land held in trust, Councillors etc etc.....

Paul Williams said...

Alex -

"I'm yet to be convinced that there has been a significant public outcry against windfarms. "

900+ replies from the public to the recent wind energy SPG is the largest number ever generated by a planning issue on Ynys Môn.

"The island isn't really that flat as compared to say the Netherlands, a trip along the A55 would show you that."

Can't see the Netherlands from the A55, but I can see that Anglesey is flatter than Gwynedd and Conwy.

"The research you quote (in comments) shows that the majority of tourists do not think that wind farms would discourage them from returning."

I didn't say a 'majority' would be discouraged, I said approx. 10-30% which is what the research also reflects. If you think losing 10-30% of Anglesey's tourism trade is a price worth paying for wind energy, please say so.

"As to the former Shell depot at Rhosgoch, how many turbines did you think you could fit in on the land?"

My personal view is the fewer giant turbines the better. However it would be possible to expand the scheme to larger nearby council-owned smallholdings also — after all Ynys Môn has the second largest such estate in Wales.

"And lastly not to mention conflict of interest with land held in trust, Councillors etc etc....."

Land being held in trust for 30 years and put to no productive use whatsoever is a larger problem.

kp said...

I have just read this (thanks to Anglesey Telegraph blog):

Cllr B Durkin - APW/002/2011-012/CT
Name of relevant Authority(ies) : Isle of Anglesey County Council
Location of Event: Tre-Ysgawen Country House Hotel, Capel Coch, Llangefni, Anglesey
Date of Event: 15/05/2012
Nature of allegation
Breach of paras 4(b), 4(c), and 6(1)(a) of the code of conduct
Time of Event
10.00am

Tre-Ysgawen again! Who is paying? And why always this place. Doesn't the council have a spare room available? The chamber perhaps?

Disgraceful. No other word!

Anonymous said...

kp.

This will be a day not to be missed.
I wouldn't like to put money on who will win but there is one thing for sure, Durkin will be primed and ready with all his Exocet's in place.

Anonymous said...

KP, you really are a stuck record and permanently wrong. The council is not responsible for the venue. If you want to complain, complain to the Adjudication Panel for Wales.

kp said...

Anon 23:28

You mean I can go along and watch the spectacle myself? Fantastic.

I wonder what they are serving for lunch.

ps. Mr Williams, I see from Twitter that you are off for a while. Have fun, enjoy, stay safe and please make a speedy return. I may not agree with your views all the time but I do most certainly acknowledge, appreciate and admire your personal contribution to Anglesey political life!

Paul Williams said...

KP - very kind, thank you!

mairede thomas said...

Ice Cold in Alex - You need to get out more. As I went round the lanes and homes this weekend I only found 2 people who supported the idea of on-shore wind turbines anywhere on Anglesey and 1 or 2 more who declined to comment.

The other 60 plus people I spoke to on their own doorsteps, were more than willing to sign objection letters to turbines being proposed in their areas and many offered to help collect more signatures. But unfortunately the planning deadlines made that a non-starter.

People were also angry that they had not been informed about new planning applications in their neighbourhood.

Druid - Your plan has its merits, but one thing I would say is that in the newly approved South Wales (Neath) windfarm, the turbines will be up to 145 meters high, I don't think anyone seriously considered that onshore turbines would be that big when they put together TAN8 in 2005. I think TAN8 needs to be updated with a view to putting all such huge turbines out at sea.

As you probably know Cameron was talking to the US about 'floating deep sea turbines' - that's probably the best place for them!

228FPA said...

Cllr Barrie Durkin. said...

228FPA.
Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Cllr Barrie Durkin.


Proof of the pudding is in the eating and we are still waiting.

Ice Cold in Alex said...

Paul, you ask me "If you think losing 10-30% of Anglesey's tourism trade is a price worth paying for wind energy, please say so."

I'm not sure it's that simple, after all take your argument that as the former Shell site at Rhosgoch is isolated a windfarm there is OK, then it follows that a wind turbine on an isolated farm is also acceptable.

At the end of the day every decision is a balance of risk, and I'm sure the tourist industry would worry if trade fell by 10% to 30%.

However, in my opinion that is no basis for moving forward, for if you follow that argument any proposed development that could potentially reduce tourist would be refused.

Sometimes the interests of the many overrides the concerns of the few, and like many decisions taken not everyone will be a winner. Otherwise you would support a ban on low flying planes for example?

So in direct answer to your question "If you think losing 10-30% of Anglesey's tourism trade is a price worth paying for wind energy, please say so." my answer for what its worth would be yes.

Anonymous said...

The tank farm was sited in a depression, with a landscaping scheme to attempt to hide it. I worked on the design team in the 70's. All the wind turbines on Anglesey are sited on the tops, where you get higher wind speeds.

Anonymous said...

The tank farm was sited in a depression, with a landscaping scheme to attempt to hide it. I worked on the design team in the 70's. All the wind turbines on Anglesey are sited on the tops, where you get higher wind speeds.

Outraged. said...

Barrie Durkin, the only Anglesey County Councillor the residents of Anglesey could trust to help restore confidence and claw back the duty of care and respect they deserve was today, in a travesty of so called justice, given a 12 month suspension from office by the Adjudication Panel for Wales, just for telling the truth and routing out wrongdoing.

Something tells me this is only the start of inevitable eradication of those who have been using Anglesey County Council as their personal thiefdom for far to long.

Anonymous said...

Barrie resigned as a Councillor on Friday (reports linked below).

Sad sad week for ordinary decent honest people. Barrie wasn't ordinary but my goodness in my experience was he decent and honest.

I suppose we ought to expect the establishment to close ranks at times like this, whatever the actual facts and context may be.

If Barrie hadn't done what he did, who else was going to expose what needed exposing?

"The Adjudication Panel for Wales also found he had failed to show respect [...] in public attacks on former interim managing director David Bowles."

A word to the wise, dear panel (and others): courtesy you get for free, and everyone deserves courtesy (most of the time).

Respect is different from courtesy.

People in positions of authority (public or private), especially those being paid large sums of money, even more so those dodging the tax on it, MUST be able to demonstrate that they have *earned* their position, and that they are worth the money. *Then* they might deserve, and get, some respect.

Respect is also due to individuals not in positions of authority, who bravely take on difficult but necessary tasks in areas where others perhaps understandably fear to tread. Whistleblowers, if you will. So what if their approach isn't necessarily the most "conventional" one - sometimes convention gets in the way, or maybe the conventional approach has demonstrably failed.

Bowles? Respect?

Barrie? Respect!


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-18119550

http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/2012/05/18/anglesey-councillor-barrie-durkin-suspended-for-bullying-55578-30994115/

[there is an editorial too, "The Post Says: See Page 8" but no actual link; the Post's delightful website doesn't make it easy to find, and Google doesn't find it either - pointers or text welcome]

228FPA said...

So exactly what did Mr. Durkin expose at IoACC?