RENEWABLE ENERGY AND THE LANDSCAPE: THE WAY FORWARD FOR THE COTSWOLDS
The Cotswolds Conservation Board has voiced its support for renewable energy, while advising planning authorities that large scale wind farms and biomass incineration plants are incompatible with the need to protect the landscape for future generations.
The Board is also launching a study into ways of developing renewable energy that will be sympathetic to the countryside.
The Cotswolds Conservation Board is a statutory body set up to protect the Cotswolds which is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, (AONB). One of its key roles is to act in an advisory capacity to planning authorities to ensure that the national and international value of the area is consistently conserved and enhanced
In a statement issued today to the media and all planning authorities within the Cotswolds, the Board stresses that; "small scale renewable energy projects may well be able to be accommodated within the landscape without causing harm. However, what constitutes small, and the significance of any visual impact, must be defined by the critical characteristics which make that landscape special".
The statement adds: "Projects which are close to existing settlements, where the impact of man made structures are more prevalent, will be more acceptable than projects in the open countryside where visual clutter should be avoided. All renewable energy proposals must be justified by reference to a landscape character assessment."
Niel Curwen, Chairman of the Conservation Board said: "The Board wishes to make clear that it is not against renewable energy development in the Cotswolds. However, it does wish to provide guidance on which types of technology are likely to be acceptable in this beautiful area. Other than large scale wind farms or biomass incinerators, there are likely to be many other types of energy generation which are of a small enough scale to fit into the landscape."
The statement also points out that; "the contribution that can be made from the AONB to national and regional renewable energy targets is small while the harm to what is an area of national heritage enjoyed by many people could be great."
The Board believes that it should be possible to make an acceptable contribution to the required amount of renewable energy generated within the AONB by using forms of green technology of a scale appropriate to the landscape.
It is hoped that the Board's study into the different types of renewable energy technologies available will help identify which types of green technology would be more appropriate.
To sum up, the purposes of the study are:
• To draw together information on renewable energy technologies such as solar, hydro, bio-fuel and small scale wind turbines.
• To explore the possibilities of the use of such technologies within a designated landscape - the Cotswolds AONB.
• To help inform the stance of the Cotswolds Conservation Board and its policies for renewable energy projects in the AONB.
• To assist local authorities to devise appropriate criteria based policies for renewable energy developments in the Cotswolds AONB.
• To help identify which technologies may be worth supporting as pilot projects.
Councillor Liz Eyre, a Board member and Chair of the Living and Working Sub Committee, said: "The Cotswolds Conservation Board is, in principle, supportive of appropriate projects to provide renewable energy. We wish to investigate the full range of technologies currently available. This will help us provide advice to local authorities, developers, communities and householders as to which type of project is likely to be suitable for development in the Cotswolds without harming the natural beauty of the Area. In particular we are interested in finding out more about small scale technologies which can be used by individual householders and communities."
The report is expected to be available in the spring of 2006 and the Board's statement is attached to this press release.
The Cotswolds Conservation Board does not have direct responsibility for the preparation of land use planning policies, nor the determination of planning applications. Its role is rather one of advising and guiding the statutory planning authorities regarding particular issues within the AONB and ensuring that the national and indeed international value of the area is consistently conserved and enhanced.
The Cotswolds has increasingly become a popular destination for overseas and domestic visitors with around 38 million day visits in the area each year. Tourism is also the major source of income and employment for the area. Its importance to the rural economy and its vulnerability was underlined during the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease when a wide range of businesses were seriously affected.
*Source: AONB management plan 2004.
Notes to Editors
1. The Cotswolds Conservation Board is responsible for conserving and enhancing the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The Board is comprised of members drawn from local authorities, organisations, parish councils and individuals appointed by the Secretary of State. The Board, formed in December 2004, is the only organisation that looks after the AONB as a whole.
2. The Cotswolds AONB was designated in 1966 and extended in area in 1990. It is one of 41 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty across England and Wales. It is the largest AONB, covering 790 square miles (2038 sq.km). It is a landscape of equal importance to National Parks such as Snowdonia and the Lake District.
3. A copy of the Statement is attached.
For further information contact:
Cotswolds Conservation Board
Tel: 01451 862004
Fax: 01451 862001
Information and Interpretation Officer
Cotswolds Conservation Board
Tel: 01451 862000
Fax: 01451 862001