UPDATE ON KILLINGTON February26th 2014
Why we supported the Killington Development.
Our decision to support the Killington Windfarm Development was not a simple one and we’re aware that some people take a different view. We have set out the factors (pros and cons) that informed our action below:
Mike Berners-Lee in his book ‘The Burning Question’ and many other researchers have set out in no uncertain terms now the extreme urgency with which we must reduce fossil fuel consumption if we are to have any hope of preventing temperature rise of more than 2 degrees C. We need to be shifting to renewable energy sources fast.
Experts suggest that the fluctuations of supply from solar, tidal and wind mean that a mix of renewables is needed, including both offshore and onshore wind. Whilst the UK National Grid Status site at http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ is a useful site in identifying the issue of fluctuating supply/demand and the need for a constant base level, it also raises the issue as to what will provide this.
Most of those opposing wind argue for the greater use of gas, but fail to acknowledge the issues associated with that. Gas puts yet more carbon and methane into the atmosphere and the methods of extraction now being pursued here (fracked gas, Underground Coal Gasification and Coal Bed Methane) are highly visually damaging (with thousands of wells proposed in each area with all the associated road and pipeline infrastructure required), use vast amounts of water, cause pollution and are irreversible. Once the wells are spent, they are simply capped off whilst still filled with potentially toxic waste water and are known to be liable to leaking in the long term.
The new Zero Carbon Britain report from Centre for Alternative Technology (see http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com ) identifies the fundamental changes to our lives that are needed, and wind energy is one of those. Another of those changes is undoubtedly massive reduction in our use of electricity and a National policy which prioritises energy conservation measures.
It is clear that we are already locked in to climate change and our landscape is going to be impacted whatever we do. Climate change will lead to soil erosion and flooding, which will have an influence on the working landscape. We think that we have to make these difficult decisions because the need for carbon reduction is so very great (see below for links to papers which explain why wind farms are making an effective contribution to this.)
We had concerns that Banks, the developers, are involved in coal extraction. However they are also making a big move towards renewables and since turning off existing coal fired generation instantly is not an option, we chose to support their proposal. Community ownership would be preferable, but the investment required for a scheme like Killington is huge, and not guaranteed to succeed. Without far more positive promotion of community energy by government and indeed Local Authorites (SLDC turned down the application by Energy4All to re-power Harlock hill only last year) community energy schemes will not provide all the answers.
The Planning Committee Decision on 30th January in favour of Killington.
Although the decision was a successful conclusion from our perspective, none of us involved felt euphoric. We carried out this campaign out of a belief that wind power is something that we can offer. We appreciate that others may not agree with that and do not wish to see this as a “victory” so much as an indication that our Planning Committee, which were charged with making a difficult decision, listened carefully to good arguments on both sides but, in the end, chose by a good majority to decide in favour of carbon reduction.
After the planning committee decision on 30th January a number of those opposing the development wrote (known as an Article 25 letter) to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) asking for a halt to proceedings whilst the process of the decision is considered. If the DCLG finds the Planning Committee did not follow sound procedures it is possible that they could “call in” the decision. If this happens a Public Enquiry would take place at great cost to SLDC and the local ratepayer. We have written to the Department asking that this does not happen, and given reasons why we think that the Planning Committee duly considered the application and made a fair decision. Looking at DCLG criteria for a “call in” we do not believe that there are grounds for that.