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November 4, 2011

Spear's Letters

By Spear's

Spear’s readers respond to the proposed national planning reforms and Spear’s Save Britain’s Historic Landscape Campaign

From Chris Brittain, Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland
We are a small, well-established charity (1926) who work in Scotland to protect our historic landscape and we have been successful not only in challenging individual developments but also in influencing planning policy. More information can be seen on our website.

We noticed that a lot of your material did not distinguish the variations in different parts of the UK, and yet many of your readers either own property in Scotland or visit it regularly for sport or recreation. (See for a piece on Scotland’s battle with wind turbines.)

Recent research from Scottish Natural Heritage shows that Scotland’s pristine scenery is disappearing. The percentage unaffected by adverse visual influences fell from 31 per cent in January 2008 to 28 per cent in December 2009. That is a loss of over 2,300 sq. kilometres in two years (more than the area of Stirlingshire). We hope to reverse this trend while retaining the viability of rural areas.
From Alex Jenner-Furst

I’m writing to outline our situation as I think it illustrates perfectly the damage current government policy is doing to the countryside.

We live in the historic village of Hill (population 100). We have spent the past eighteen months under threat from a wind development just 700 metres from homes, a development that we believe to be totally inappropriate in scale and location.

The parish has remained largely unchanged since the 18th century, the church is Norman with later additions and it is a popular place for local people and visitors to walk, cycle and horseride.

It has been a steep learning curve. We have become experts in local and national planning guidelines, organised meetings, designed posters, commisssioned landscape surveys and photomontages and helped people navigate their way through the planning process.

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We were shocked by the so-called ‘consultation’ process used by the developers, including the publication of highly selective photomontages and predicted output figures and their aggressive and dismissive attitude to local concerns.

Local planning officers recommended the proposal for approval, largely on the basis that national targets needed to be met and this outweighed all the acknowledged impacts. As a result, we were delighted that the council’s planning committee refused the application on the grounds that it compromised landscape, heritage assets and public rights of way.

Sadly it appears the views of the community and its democratically elected representatives count for nothing. The refusal has been appealed and our next step is a public hearing in November, with all the work and stress entailed.

Under current and proposed planning rules it is almost impossible for small rural communities to defend themselves from the wishes of wealthy developers and councils with targets to meet. We simply do not have the resources or the experience.

We believe that the government’s current energy plans are not only economic madness, but will also destroy some of the most beautiful parts of our countryside forever.

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