Renewable energy: balance must be found
Telephone calls, emails and scores of hand written letters pour in to the offices of the Western Daily Press every day, expressing a wide array of feelings over renewable energy projects.
Whether it be solar panels or wind turbines – on or offshore – schemes to generate new forms of energy have triggered wildly varying emotions among readers of this newspaper.
No doubt with an eye on rural votes, the Government – which has been eager to talk up its understanding of the countryside – announced new planning guidelines this summer which at face value put the renewables ball firmly back in the court of local communities.
The guidelines clearly stated that "the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections or the planning concerns of local communities".
Many in the region who preferred not to confront the realities of our future energy supplies – and the uncertainty surrounding them – rejoiced.
We understood their relief but we urged caution, with good reason.
The simple fact is, the West Country cannot in general afford to say a blanket "no" to renewables, but the balance between generating sustainable energy and preserving the West's beautiful landscape is one that must be found. That is why this newspaper has consistently called for a clear green strategy to avoid the case-by-case chaos that currently exists.
A few months on and some communities are beginning to feel they are still being ignored. We note there is a growing clamour in Westminster for a study of the impact of the recent guidance on renewable and low carbon energy.
Some MPs fear the voice of local people still is not being heard and have asked for an accurate assessment of the effect of the proposed guidelines, and in many cases for them to be strengthened. Such efforts will be much appreciated by many constituents.
But clarity around where wind or solar farms should be built is still non-existent, hence repeated calls for a clear national strategy.
Not having one is merely a recipe for more conflict and more costly planning appeals and legal challenges in the future.