Friends of the Hills is a new pressure group in Wiveliscombe and its surrounding parishes, formed to influence local issues of renewable energy development, particularly wind turbine and solar parks, in the area
Bruce McIntosh, the group’s coordinator, said, “In a nutshell, FOTH is pro renewables but we believe that context and setting are crucial. Our biggest concern is about wind turbines. One local developer, Brendon Energy, is exploring plans for one or more turbines up to 250 feet high in the area around Wiveliscombe. Though no site has yet been confirmed, we believe it extremely likely, given the need for turbines to be sited in prominent positions, that any site will have a very significant negative visual impact.
“Brendon Energy’s own survey was significant: opponents of wind outnumbered supporters (34% v 27%) and wind ranked a distant third behind roof-mounted solar PV as a preferred option – solar PV had 74% approval, followed by hydro, followed by wind. By engaging at this early stage with BE, we hope they will demonstrate that they will heed opinion and pursue, for the sake of the community, an option that unites the community rather than one that divides it.
“The structure of BE is open to scrutiny: it will seek to raise money from shareholders, who do not have to live in the area, and any sums paid to the community are paid only after shareholders have received an investment return, target 7%. BE describes itself as community-owned for community benefit. FOTH suggests it is shareholder-owned for shareholder-benefit, with any residual profit being paid to the community.
“In summary, FOTH is pro renewables and pro community benefit. Many of its members are highly active within their own communities already. But it would like to see solutions that have whole-hearted community support rather than developments that will divide the community. FOTH can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org”
FOTH adds its voice to an ongoing – and increasingly contentious – debate involving the general public, private developers, energy providers and the Government which, as its National Policy Statement for Renewable Energy Infrastructure, states, “Electricity generation from renewable sources of energy is an important element in the Government’s development of a low-carbon economy. There are ambitious renewable energy targets in place and a significant increase in generation from large-scale renewable energy infrastructure is necessary to meet the 15% renewable energy target.”
FOTH aims to “provide factual information to balance the claims of developers and provide a forum for ensuring that the views of local communities are fairly and accurately represented.” It is likely that their voice and representation will be increasingly needed as the renewables issue becomes a focus of concern in the local community.
Report: Gill Paltridge