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Most recent news:

Help make Wiltshire a greener, better place: invest in Council Solar Bonds

Swindon Borough Council and Abundance Investment, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, have just launched the UK’s first ‘Council Solar Bonds’ – offering local people the chance to co-invest with the council in the Swindon Community Solar Farm at Common Farm, Wroughton. The minimum investment is just £5 and the bonds have an effective rate of return of 6% – beating anything available from the banks at the moment.

A Community Interest Company owned by the Council will manage the solar farm, with 65% of the profits going to support community projects, such as energy efficiency and fuel poverty, while the remaining 35% goes to pay a return to investors and the council.

The 4.8MW solar farm will be on council-owned land managed to promote biodiversity, supporting wild birds, bees and butterflies, and with sheep grazing between the panels. It will generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of 1,200 typical homes, saving around 2000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. Swindon Council's ambition is to generate enough renewable power for the equivalent of all the homes in the area by 2020, with this project expected to make an important contribution to that target.

It’s easy to invest at abundanceinvestment.com/swindon. So far people have already invested over £460,000 of the £1.8 million target and an “early bird bonus” of 0.5% for the first five years will boost returns for those investing before April 21st 2016.

As with any investment product, there are risks – part or all of the original invested capital may be at risk. Investments are long term but you should be able to sell your bonds via the Abundance website.

Community energy is the future – this is a fantastic opportunity to be part of it.

August 26th 2015 - WCEA fears fracking will not be subject to normal planning process

The Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance has expressed concern that Wiltshire fracking sites will not be subject to normal planning rules.  New planning guidance forces local authorities to decide on whether to allow controversial fracking operations within 16 weeks.  If they fail to approve them, government ministers have the right to intervene.

Last week the government announced that four large blocks in Wiltshire are to be licenced for fracking.  ST84 - near Warminster, ST85 - in and around Trowbridge, ST94 - Salisbury Plain, and ST95 - south of Devizes (1).

Lesley Bennett, spokesperson for the WCEA said, ‘These changes dangerously undermine UK planning rules.  The government has torn up its commitment to local democracy.  Local councils can no longer adequately protect community health or the environment in this bizarre rush to impose fracking on the British people.  Fracking has been banned in Germany and France, but in Britain we are to have fracking forced upon us.’

Fracking is common in the United States, but has proved difficult to safely regulate.  It has now been banned in New York State because of the threat to public health.  Underground pollution from methane, and from the carcinogenic chemicals used in the fracking process, is common.  Methane leaks are also routinely recorded at the well head.  Leaks typically pollute water sources and soil, affecting drinking water and farm land.  An increase in cancer rates has also been reported in many areas identified with fracking.

The UK planning system has traditionally been independent and evidence-based.  Clear, consistent rules help protect community health and landscape, and give a voice to local people.  The new planning rules give fracking special treatment; a green light to frack regardless of local concerns.  At the same time other rules have changed, making it much harder to put up wind turbines and create new solar energy projects.

Lesley Bennett said, ‘We are deeply worried that fracking is being imposed on Wiltshire’s beautiful and fragile countryside and its densely-populated towns and villages.  Fracking is divisive and public support has slumped to just 32% (2).  Renewables on the other hand are popular with over three quarters of the British public (3).  Wiltshire is already a leading solar county, and is equally suitable for wind farms and biomass.’

Fracking also contributes to climate change.  While natural gas produces lower carbon emissions than dirty coal, its methane emissions are high.  Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.  Evidence suggests that the overall climate impact of fracking is as just as bad as coal (4).

Lesley Bennett said, ‘The Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance believes energy security is best delivered through a commitment to home-grown renewables, community-owned renewables, and investment in electricity storage.  Fracking unnecessarily extends our reliance on fossil fuels, and diverts financial and political efforts to develop clean, renewable energy infrastructure in Britain.’

- ENDS -

For more information please contact:
Lesley Bennett
Landline: 01666 841 093
Mobile: 07825 990 861
E-mail: lcsbennett@gmail.com

Notes to editors:
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method used to extract gas from shale rock.  Fracking wells are drilled deep underground, first vertically, and then horizontally for up to three miles beneath the countryside, farmland and people’s homes.  Once drilling is complete a mixture of water and chemicals is injected at high pressure to fracture, or shatter, the rock.  This releases gas trapped in the shale, which rises to the surface and out of the well head.


April 10th 2014 - A win for wind in Wiltshire

Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance statement following the planning inspector's core strategy modifications:

"We are very pleased that the Planning Inspector has said that all reference to separation distances between wind turbines and homes should be deleted from the Core Strategy.  Planning policy should be open-minded and un-biased, and wind farm applications should be judged on a case-by-case basis in line with national policy, which already has robust guidance on appropriate locations for wind turbines.

"Wind provides efficient, carbon-free fuel, and renewable energy now plays an integral role in ensuring the lights stay on in Britain.  Between November 2013 and January 2014 renewables provided 18.4% of UK electricity,  with the majority coming from onshore wind. This was only a little behind nuclear and gas.

"Since Wiltshire's policy was introduced almost two years ago, all forms of wind development in Wiltshire – both commercial and community – have been on hold, which is a shame.  As a result of the planning inspector's recommendation we will have a stronger planning policy in Wiltshire that will set an important precedent for other local authorities."

Link to planning inspector's letter: http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/wcs-exam-97-inspectors-14th-procedural-letter-7th-march-20114.pdf

Solar farms
The Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance has been pleased to note the increasing number of solar developments in Wiltshire.  Public interest in solar farms has grown alongside the number of applications to Wiltshire council for planning permission.  In response, we have developed our own solar policy, which we use when deciding which solar farm developments we should support. 

To read the policy - Click here

Wind buffer zone policy update - RegenSW
28th May 2013

As localism begins to unfold, the way in which industry and decision makers respond to policies such as that proposed by Milton Keynes Council for standard separation distances between wind turbines and homes will have a huge impact on renewables projects across the country.

I recently spent the day acting as an expert witness for a group of steadfast volunteers, who came together under the auspices of the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance to highlight the significant impact that a similar policy proposed by Councillors in Wiltshire would have on local ambitions to deliver clean energy. 

To read more - Click here

Duncan Hames MP speaks out against Wiltshire Council's anti-wind policy at core strategy inquiry
23rd May 2013

To read Mr Hames column from the Gazette and Herald - Click here

High Court rejects wind farm separation distances
April 16th 2013

The High Court has overturned Milton Keynes Borough Council's attempt to block large wind farms in its local development plan. This decision, by Judge John Howells QC, could have significant implications for Wiltshire Council's own attempts to ban wind farm development.

Milton Keynes Borough Council had voted to impose 1.2km separation distances between turbines and residential housing.  In this important case Judge Howells ruled that the attempt to impose a 'buffer zone' for new wind farm projects was unlawful.  He concluded that there was 'no objective justification' for arbitrary separation distances for new turbines and that the policy was 'plainly in conflict' with established planning guidance.

ffinlo Costain, chairman of Pewsey Environmental Action Team and member of the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance campaign group, said, 'National guidance plainly indicates that local authorities should not have anti-wind farm policies based on minimum separation distances.  There's no evidence to support wind turbine buffer zones; planning policy should be open-minded and un-biased, and wind farm applications should be judged on a case-by-case basis in line with national policy. '

Last June, with no prior consultation, Wiltshire Council voted through an amendment to Policy 42 of its Core Strategy Submission Document that aimed to prevent wind turbines from being built anywhere in Wiltshire.  The amendment, inserted by some councillors, aimed to stop wind farms being built by stipulating minimum separation distances between homes and wind turbines, ostensibly on health and safety grounds. This caused a public outcry when it was first passed by the Council in June.

Wiltshire Council's core strategy will be subject to public inquiry by a planning inspector from May 7th.  Core Policy 42, which includes the council's attempts to impose arbitrary separation distances on wind farms, will be considered on May 16th.

Rowena Quantrill, Climate Friendly Bradford on Avon representative on the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance, 'Wind farm development is critical if Wiltshire is to play an active role in meeting national decarbonisation targets.  Wind farms reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels and will help reduce electricity prices in the near future.  We are very pleased with the Milton Keynes ruling and believe this bodes well for the Planning Inspector's hearing on this key issue for Wiltshire.'


Map of the impact of this policy
To view the map of Wiltshire showing the impact of the new amendment on wind farm development in Wiltshire - Click here

March 2013 - WCEA writes to all Wiltshire Councillors
The WCEA has written to all Wiltshire Councillors to ensure they have accurate information about wind energy, and the potential impact of Core Policy 42. 
The pack included, a rebuttal of ‘evidence’ presented to some members of Wiltshire Council by the Stop Grange Farm Action Group, a map which demonstrates unequivocally that the amended policy would effectively end all prospects of wind-farm development in the county, FAQs about wind energy, and a summary table of responses received to the Policy 42 Consultation.
To read the letter - Click here

Feb 2013 news update - Inspector's Examination of the Wiltshire Core Strategy
The Programme Officer for the Examination of the Wiltshire Core Strategy has scheduled a Pre Hearing Meeting, which is to be held on Thursday 28th February 2013 at 1.30pm within the Civic Centre, Trowbridge.  Representors are welcome to attend.

The Pre Hearing Meeting is purely procedural, designed to provide information on the process moving forward and explain how the Examination will be organised and conducted.  Detailed elements of the Core Strategy or the merit of individual representations will not be discussed at this meeting.

It's anticipated that the Hearing Sessions will commence on Tuesday 7th of May 2013 at the same venue and could last for approximately six weeks.  A programme for the Hearing Sessions together with the Inspector's issues to be covered will follow in due course.

Greenpeace investigation
Greenpeace undercover investigation 'revealed a militant group of Conservative MPs trying to strangle investment in clean, renewable energy.' To find out more and watch a short video - Click here

Wiltshire shows strong support for wind power
(To read this release as a formatted pdf - Click here)

Consultation on controversial Core Strategy policy amendment demonstrates widespread support for fair planning policy for wind farms from across Wiltshire and the UK.

Wiltshire Council’s 6-week public consultation on a controversial last-minute amendment to its Core Strategy has ended, demonstrating substantial support both in Wiltshire and further afield for fairer planning policy for wind farms.

Over 1,000 people have responded to Wiltshire Council’s retrospective consultation on an amendment to Core Strategy Policy 42, “standalone renewable energy installations”. By imposing a 3km exclusion zone around housing, the policy amendment, inserted at the last minute, would effectively block all wind farm development in the county, according to analysis from Renewable UK (see map attached).

Over 500 people responded to the consultation saying they thought separation distances were unfair and not based on sound evidence. Unlike respondents who supported Wiltshire Council’s amendment, those in favour of clean energy were spread across the length and breadth of Wiltshire – with the largest numbers of individual responses coming from Bradford-on-Avon, Marlborough, Salisbury, Calne, Pewsey, Chippenham and Corsham. 

Local community groups also responded collectively to the consultation. Group comments in support of renewable energy represented thousands of local people. These included submissions from the Wiltshire Federation of WIs and the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance, which comprises some 37 different community groups and businesses.

Sophy Fearnley-Whittingstall, campaign coordinator for the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance, said:

“People and community groups across Wiltshire are sending a clear message to the Council that imposing exclusion zones would be unfair and not justified by the evidence. Planning policy should be open-minded and un-biased, and wind farm applications should be judged on a case-by-case basis in line with national policy.

“Communities in Wiltshire deserve to benefit from the economic advantages of having wind farms nearby.”

Responses which favoured separation distances were largely skewed to the towns of Trowbridge and Westbury, close to the county’s only proposed wind farm at West Ashton, which has yet to be submitted for consultation or planning.  Interestingly, many of these anti- wind power comments are based on inaccurate information. Even though these worries are largely unfounded, the concern is genuine. The wind industry and Wiltshire Council should work together to better inform the public. Wind power continues to be one of the safest ways to generate electricity in the world.

Duncan Hames, MP, (Chippenham) said in his consultation response: “There is no health and safety justification for distances anything like as great as those in this policy.”

He added: “It is a negative strategy, designed in effect to ban certain forms of renewable energy generation from the county… There is therefore no compelling reason for such draconian measures as the amended Policy 42 when guidance and legislation is already in place to assess fairly the likely impacts of potential wind developments on suitable sites.”

The consultation also attracted attention from across the UK from individuals and groups concerned that if the amendment was to stand, it would set a dangerous planning policy precedent which might be followed by other councils.

Outside Wiltshire, those in favour of fair planning policy for wind farms outnumbered supporters of separation distances by almost two to one, in line with the latest national surveys which show that a large majority of the British public are in favour of onshore wind. They included organisations such as the Campaign against Climate Change, the RSPB and Forum for the Future.

The RSPB says: “Climate change poses the single greatest long-term threat to birds and other wildlife, and the RSPB recognises the essential role of renewable energy in addressing this problem.

“We support local solutions that enable individuals and communities to generate their own power close to their homes and businesses. But we will also need large-scale deployment of renewables to meet our ambitious climate and renewables targets.”

The responses from the consultation on the Core Strategy amendment will be passed on to the Planning Inspector, who is expected to hold a hearing early in 2013.


Media queries: please contact Sophy Fearnley-Whittingstall, Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance, 07979 368238 or sophyfw@hotmail.com

Consultation response from the RSPB
This excellent response to Wiltshire Council's amendment has been submitted by the RSPB. It includes maps that show how this amendment will end wind farm development in Wiltshire.

'The RSPB is concerned that the current text of Core Policy 42 renders the Core Strategy unsound.

'The National Planning Policy Framework requires Local Authorities to have a positive strategy to promote energy from renewable sources and design their policies to maximise such developments while ensuring that any adverse impacts are addressed satisfactorily (paragraph 97). It appears that the Council's policy is intended to address such impacts, but we are concerned about its practical implications.

'We note that a 3km exclusion zone will block practically all windfarm development in Wiltshire (map produced by Renewable UK [1]). Given that exclusion zones for hazardous (including explosive substances) usually involve significantly smaller distances than the 3km zone proposed here we are concerned that the distance chosen is excessive. We consider that the Council should apply the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) Planning Advice for Developments near Hazardous Installations (PADHI) methodology. To this end, we recommend that the Council consults the HSE as a matter of urgency to get clear advice from it on the appropriate separation distances for wind turbines on health and safety grounds. If the Council has already received such advice from the HSE we recommend its publication as it is clearly an important part of the plan's evidence base. Any separation that exceeds the HSE's advice will not be justified unless the Council can provide clear evidence suggesting that the Council can provide clear evidence suggesting that the HSE's approach is wrong.

'We also note the House of Commons Science and Environment Section briefing note entitled Wind Farms - Distance from Housing (SN/SC/5221) published in July 2012 states that "the Government has rejected the idea of a separation distance for England." If the Government is not prepared to support such an approach then it is all the more important that the approach adopted by the Council, which is clearly at variance with the Government's, is justified by robust evidence. However, as noted above, we are not aware of any evidence considered by the Council to justify its approach.

'We are also concerned that the analysis of the changes to Core Policy 42 in the revised Sustainability Appraisal fails to adequately identify the likely cuts to the power generated from wind power in Wiltshire. The South West Renewable Energy Resource Assessment (November 2010) estimated that Wiltshire could accommodate 524 large scale turbines with a total capacity of 1334MW, generating 3009 GWh/year (11% of the County's electricity demand) [2]. This figure could have been re-evaluated or, at the least, it would have been possible to calculate the maximum impact of the policy (almost no wind-generated power in Wiltshire). The fact that the revised Sustainability Appraisal fails to go beyond the statement "this could reduce Wiltshire's ability to generate energy from non-renewable sources" (paragraph 5.44.14) is a matter of concern as it does not highlight the potential severity of the operation of Core Policy 42.

'Unless the Council can provide clear evidence that supports the various exclusion zones proposed we consider that the amendment to Core Policy 42 renders the Core Strategy unsound. We recommend the deletion of the exclusion zone element of the policy.

[1] Map produced by Renewable UK

[2] http://regensw.s3.amazonaws.com/1277209512_386.pdf

DECC news blog
9th October 2012

The viability of wind

The Department of Energy and Climate Change's Chair of the Office for Renewable Energy Deployment has blogged on the viability of wind energy. He tackles the important issue of shadow capacity.
To read the blog - Click here

News release from the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance
Monday 24th September 2012

Wiltshire Council launches public consultation on wind farm planning issue
Wiltshire Council has launched a public consultation on a controversial last-minute amendment to its Core Strategy which, if adopted, would effectively cut off a major route for developing renewable energy in Wiltshire. The amendment, inserted by some councillors, aims to stop wind farms being built by stipulating minimum separation distances between homes and wind turbines, ostensibly on health and safety grounds. This caused a public outcry when it was first passed by the Council in June.

A group of residents, businesses, and community groups from Malmesbury to Salisbury and  Bradford-on Avon to Pewsey have formed the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance to campaign against the amendment and ensure that fair planning rules for renewable developments prevail.

Rowena Quantrill, a founder member of the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance and a member of Climate Friendly Bradford-on Avon, said:
“Wiltshire Council itself has recognised wind farms and biomass as the two key renewable energy opportunities for Wiltshire – so to stop all wind farm development at a stroke would be entirely counterproductive. Supporters of wind farms tend to be the silent majority – so I’d urge people to speak up and comment on this consultation to have their voices heard. Renewables can help Wiltshire become more energy independent and offer great opportunities for communities to benefit too.” 

A map of Wiltshire taking into account the new residential buffer zones and other environmental and landscape designations shows definitively that if the amendment is left to stand, there would be no suitable places for wind development left in the county, which is the UK’s 13th largest by land area.

Wiltshire Councillor for Chippenham, Chris Caswill, said: “It’s good news that Wiltshire Council is now consulting the public about this badly written policy amendment, which should never have been passed in the first place. There is already an established, independent, evidence-based process for handling wind-farm planning applications, but these proposals replace it with fiction and prejudice."

The consultation has also caught the attention of national organisations and politicians.

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said, “It’s right that Wiltshire residents are consulted about this amendment to planning policy – wind turbines are not dangerous and there’s no safety reason to stop them being built within three kilometres of any home.

“We know that 85 per cent of the public want more of their electricity to come from UK wind, sun and water, and all councils – including Wiltshire – play a crucial role in enabling that to happen.

“Instead of sneaking in last-minute caveats that will stop clean energy in its tracks, Wiltshire Council should be blazing a trail with its local plan – cutting emissions and creating hundreds of jobs.”

Last Friday Mr Atkins visited Westmill Wind and Solar Farm near Swindon to see first-hand how renewables projects can benefit local communities. Westmill Wind Farm was the first community-owned wind farm to be built in the South of England, however a project like this would be prevented from going ahead a few miles down the road in Wiltshire if the amendment to the Core Strategy is allowed to stand.

Andy Atkins added: “Westmill wind and solar co-op is a great example how communities can benefit directly from clean British energy.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has also pledged her support for the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance. She said, “I’m pleased that Wiltshire Council has decided to consult the public about this controversial policy amendment. If it is allowed to become policy there is a danger that a new precedent will become established amongst local planners which could have serious implications for the UK’s ability to achieve its renewable energy targets.”

Wiltshire Council’s six-week consultation is due to end on 1st November 2012. It covers some 180 minor amendments to the Core Strategy, but the wind farm planning issue is likely to provoke the biggest response. People who wish to comment on the consultation can visit www.wiltshirecea.org.uk for more information.


Contact details:
General media enquiries:
Sophy Fearnley-Whittingstall, WCEA, 07979 368238 or sophy@goodenergy.co.uk

Rowena Quantrill, WCEA: 01225 866245  or rowena.quantrill@btinternet.com

Chris Caswill, Wiltshire Councillor for Chippenham: 01249 822088 or c.j.caswill@btinternet.com

Photo available - Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth, at Westmill Wind and Solar Farm, please email: Kate.Turner@goodenergy.co.uk

Notes to Editors:
* To view the Wiltshire Core Strategy consultation - Click here
* To view the map of Wiltshire showing the impact of the new amendment on wind farm development in Wiltshire - Click here

Wiltshire Council told: go back and consult
the public on wind farm policy
Tuesday 21st August 2012

A planning inspector has told Wiltshire Council to go back and consult the public on a controversial amendment to the Core Strategy that will govern future planning and development in the county.

On June 26th Wiltshire Council agreed its new Core Strategy. At the last minute, an amendment was proposed and accepted which aimed to create minimum separation distances between homes and wind farms. The scale of these separation distances would effectively end prospects of wind farm development in Wiltshire.

Sophy Fearnley-Whittingstall, Head of Campaign Partnerships at Chippenham-based renewable electricity supplier Good Energy, said, 'Planning policy should be open-minded and un-biased, yet this amendment, rushed through at the eleventh hour, seeks to place prejudice against one form of development at the heart of our planning system.'

The newly formed Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance [1], a group of local residents, businesses, and community groups from Pewsey to Bradford on Avon, wrote to the planning inspector, questioning the scientific basis of the amendment and the lack of public consultation. The planning inspector’s office replied that it has told Wiltshire Council that the public should be consulted on the proposed change.

Ms. Fearnley-Whittingstall said, 'The Alliance has been formed to show that there is wide-spread opposition to this amendment, which isn't just anti-wind, but anti-fairness. It is wrong to scrap an independent and evidence-based planning system and replace it with unscientific bias. All development should be subject to the same rules. Wind farms, as other developments, should be subject to fair planning scrutiny, considered on a case-by-case basis, and sited only where appropriate.'

In an independent assessment for Wiltshire Council [2] wind farms and biomass have been recognised as the key renewable energy opportunities for Wiltshire. They can also help Wiltshire become more energy independent and offer opportunities for communities to benefit. If, following consultation, this amendment becomes policy then Wiltshire's ability to reduce carbon emissions will be severely limited. The National Planning Policy Framework, which the Core Strategy is required to comply with, requires that councils 'design their policies to maximise renewable and low carbon energy development while ensuring that adverse impacts are addressed'.

The justification for this amendment was public safety. However there has not been a single incident, anywhere in the world, where a member of the public has been seriously injured by the normal operation of a wind turbine.

Rowena Quantrill is a member of the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance and the energy group of Climate Friendly Bradford on Avon. She said, 'It is particularly concerning that the Council was prepared to make such a significant change without public consultation.

'I hope other groups and individuals will support the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance and help show that Wiltshire people want a planning system that is fair for everyone. People can find out more about how to register their objections to this policy on our website: 

Notes for editors:
1.    For supporters of the Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance - Click here
2.    The Wiltshire Sustainable Energy Study, published in January 2011, was been prepared by consultants Camco for Wiltshire Council - Click here
3. To contact us - Click here


News links:

More information - Click here
Media contact info - Click here

Related news articles:

Wiltshire Times
Wiltshire's wind farm proximity policy blown away - Click here

Huffington Post
John Hayes Is Wrong About Wind Farms - Click here

BBC Wiltshire

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins appeared on Friday 21st September. To hear what he had to say - Click here - and fast-forward to about 1 hour 9 mins.

Wiltshire Gazette and Herald
Vote expected to halt Wiltshire's wind turbines - Click here

This is Wiltshire
Wiltshire Council told to rethink wind farm policy - Click here

Wiltshire Times
Wiltshire Council told to review new wind farm policy - Click here

The Guardian
Wiltshire council votes for tough new planning restrictions for windfarms - Click here

Wind power study says opponents' claims are unfounded - Click here

Business Green
Wiltshire latest council to declare war on wind farms - Click here

The Carbon Brief
Wiltshire’s wind regulation: blowing evidence-based policymaking out of the window - Click here

Good Energy Blog
Campaigning for a fairer planning policy for renewables in Wiltshire - Click here

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