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Northumberland Environmental Policy Group 2015 update

AGM REPORT: NEPG JUNE 2015

The NEPG is now 3 years old. During the past 3 years the group has reflected the NNSoc’s concern regarding commercial wind turbine development in Northumberland and the related threats to the County’s landscapes and communities. The group has focused on Northumberland’s role in the context of existing government policy and the irrefutable conclusion that the County is suffering excessively and disproportionately in its contribution to national policy ends.

During the past 12 months NEPG has continued a robust campaign to defend the County’s landscapes and communities.

1) In our last annual report we recorded a new alliance between CPRE and NNSoc and our joint letter to Peers and MPs highlighted the disproportionate burden of wind development Northumberland has suffered; seeking ways to halt further damage. • Consequent to our letter a group of Peers met with the Secretary of State. Subsequently, as a result a tabled question from Baroness Quin the issues were highlighted in a September House of Lords debate on wind development in Northumberland when serious cross-party concerns were expressed and acknowledged by the SS • The Society and CPRE were actively involved in briefing the Lords and highlighting the debate to the press. • Following the debate the NNSoc and CPRE approached all elected Northumberland County Councillors arguing that only a concerted campaign by the County’s elected representatives, combined with the confident application of robust planning policies would have any impact in defending the County’s landscapes and the communities within them.

2) During the past 12 months further extensive formal and informal consultation with officers of NCC has continued. • At a valuable meeting we were able together with our consulting expert Mr Steve Arnold to defend incorporation of policy reflecting additional protection of landscape, setting and community consent, emerging from the SS statements in the House and Additional Supplementary Guidance. • In February 2015 we submitted detailed comment on the most recent NCC Full Draft Plan. • In the last weeks have met again to defend our submissions (many of which appear to have been accepted).

3) The next months and year will see our involvement in formulating an approach to an emerging County Council proposed SPD in relation to small scale (farm) turbine development as well as comment on the definitive NCC Plan.

4) It is our impression that our contribution to emerging County Council Policy is well received. Our views appear to be trusted to reflect the broad interest of Northumbrians and Northumberland and to be without financial interest. The cost of our contribution, funded by generous contributions from NEPG supporters, has been considerable; • In excess of £35000 procuring expert advice • Many hundreds of hours of hours of work from a dedicated committee However we consider that emerging policy strongly reflects the Society's concern with the well-being of Northumberland and its proactive mandate to protect the county.

We reiterate that we are not campaigning against all wind turbines. It is the excessive and inappropriate development in high value landscapes that is our chief concern. We are not against all renewable and cleaner energy but rather the inappropriate focus on on-shore wind which distracts attention and funding from other renewable energy sources. Indeed we may, in the future, seek to consider and present information on the advantages and disadvantages of fracking and North Sea coal gasification.