Sources of energy in our National Parks

Steve Ankers, policy officer for the South Downs Society discusses energy in National Parks - let us know what you think about energy in National Parks!

As the “Friends” group for the South Downs National Park are we “environmental”? Undoubtedly, yes.  So we’re opposed to avoidable use of fossil fuels and we support renewables? Again, yes. Up to a point.

As individuals we enjoy the benefits of industrial production, travel and other manmade contributors to climate change but, increasingly, we feel the guilt – unless of course we have strange political views. Doing something about it is of course tougher. Governments are reluctant to tell us to consume less and live within the planet’s limits so we search for more “voter acceptable” solutions to energy security or shortages.

 

So, unconventional forms of mineral extraction, including fracking, are firmly on the agenda. As a national park society we have pressed for safeguards. We are told that the parks will be protected by drilling being permitted only at depth from sites outside the park boundary and that we should be unconcerned about what may or may not occur deep below the surface or in the air above. This will all be taken care of. And adjoining planning authorities will be able to safeguard the setting of the park through use of their normal powers—provided of course they get the answer right.

Renewables? This national park society has been taken to task by one or two of its own members for opposing wind turbines. In fact I believe we have only ever objected to one – that erected for the Glyndebourne Opera House which succeeded in combining a high visibility with very low output, something which was claimed by objectors at the public inquiry and reinforced since. We have supported, or not objected to, other turbine proposals which we felt were appropriate in scale and location including the giant Rampion windfarm, offshore from Brighton and Worthing. We may have preferred it not to be built in terms of its impact on landscape and seascape but recognise its significant contribution to meeting energy needs, welcomed the fact that the associated power cables would be placed underground and succeeded, along with other organisations, in securing funds for mitigation work and changes to the array which will make the turbines less visible from Sussex’s Heritage Coast.

Solar panels bring their own environmental issues. Along with other small scale energy conservation and generation measures we support their incorporation into new housing but look carefully at their possible impact when retrofitted onto existing properties, especially listed buildings or in conservation areas, and we may oppose solar farms or the construction of new barns specifically for the purpose of carrying solar panels where they will be highly intrusive and discordant in the landscape.

The Society believes that “our” national park should play its part in energy conservation and generation but this should be “capacity led” – what forms of sustainable energy sources are appropriate, and where – and not merely responsive to random proposals.

Please note, the opinions expressed in this and all our blogs are of the author, and not endorsed by Campaign for National Parks. We are hosting blogs on a variety of subjects to provoke thought and discussion about National Parks.