Jonathan Riley
Proposals to double the number of wind turbines in Scotland have reignited
debates over the environmental impact of renewable energy and non-food uses
for farmland.
The Scottish government aims to increase the number of commercial onshore
turbines from about 6,000 to 10,000 by 2030.
If approved, the policy will see onshore power output increase from 8
gigawatts (GW) to about 20GW by the start of the next decade.
The Scottish government ­ a power-sharing agreement between the Green Party
and the SNP ­ said the proposal would allow the zero-carbon sector to grow.
And while the construction strategy would be on a vast scale, the
government insisted Scotland’s natural heritage would be protected by
rigorous planning laws.
But campaign group Scotland Against Spin (SAS) said the pressure of wind
farm applications on local councils had caused the planning system to break
Information officer and farmer Aileen Jackson said councils were under
siege, with some, such as Dumfries and Galloway, unable to cope with the
number of applications.
It means applications are passing deadlines and developers can then go
straight to ministers for a decision by default, Ms Jackson said.
The development is then given the green light at a political level and the
local communities’ concerns are being bypassed.
Ms Jackson, whose farm is surrounded by wind turbines, said it was not just
the visual impact, but the noise pollution that caused anxiety.
She cited an Ayrshire rural family home and business that is under siege by
five simultaneous wind farm applications, which will encircle it from all
“The residents now face having no respite from the noise, regardless which
direction the wind blows,” she said.
Land use fears
NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy also raised concerns about protecting
land for food use.
“Delivering a future Scottish agricultural policy that is fit for purpose
must be a priority for the coalition between SNP and Greens.
“It must provide the platform around which greener policy ambitions on land
management, land use, reducing emissions and improving the environment can
be built alongside food production,” Mr Kennedy said.
“A profitable, sustainable agricultural industry is not only at the heart
of a thriving rural economy, but fundamental to the nation’s green recovery
and our response to the joint climate and biodiversity crises,” he said.
John Hicks, who has a mixed farm at Cawton, North Yorkshire, has also
challenged the loss of land from agriculture to renewable energy,
describing global warming and the role of carbon dioxide as a “myth”.
With the global population demanding more food every year, “it is certain
our grandchildren will look back on this period of madness with
incredulity, as they survey fields of rusting solar panels, wrecked wind
turbines and inedible miscanthus,” he told Farmers Weekly.
“The more farmland we cover with solar panels, wind turbines, new houses
and miscanthus, the more food we need to import,” said Mr Hicks.
Solar farms raise similar concerns
The debate over wind turbines mirrors a row over a 1,100ha solar
installation on the Cambridgeshire/Suffolk border in March of this year.
Farmer Nick Wright, who farms near Mildenhall, described the size of the
project as “community-changing”.
“It will have a massive impact ­ as an industry we need to ask why this
area of quality land should be covered in solar panels?”
A similar complaint has been made by third-generation, North Yorkshire
tenant farmers Robert and Emma Sturdy, who mounted a campaign in June when
they learned that more than half of their land was earmarked for a 75ha
solar farm.
“It’s an incredibly stressful time. It just feels like all the work we’ve
put into improving the land and the habitat for wildlife counts for
nothing,” Mrs Sturdy said at the time

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