New energy in England’s countryside
Last year, CPRE published our vision for the countryside in 2026, which points to a greener, more beautiful and tranquil countryside. Our vision is set in the context of increasing demands on the land for food, recreation, housing and energy.
In this context, Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, agreed to answer some questions about the new infrastructure that will be needed to tackle the twin challenges of energy security and climate change mitigation.
Update: Shaun Spiers, CPRE’s Chief Executive, and Ed Miliband have written short responses to the points raised in the debate. Read their thoughts by clicking on the links below:
For reference, the original list of questions we put to the secretary of state are listed below.
1. CPRE recently published a vision for the countryside in 2026 – our centenary year. What changes do you think we will see by then to the character of the countryside as a result of climate change and new energy infrastructure?
2. Many CPRE members were concerned by your reported comments that it should be ‘socially unacceptable to be against wind turbines in your area – like not wearing your seatbelt or driving past a zebra crossing’? Do you believe local communities have a legitimate role to protect valued local landscapes from damaging energy infrastructure? Or does the seriousness of climate change mean central Government will increasingly overrule local decisions?
3. Remote villages, especially in upland areas such as the Peak District, have significant opportunities for landscape-sensitive energy generation. What place is there for smaller community-scale renewable energy projects that fulfil local energy needs directly, without feeding into a national grid?
4. Can the Secretary of State reassure CPRE that there will be no new investment in coal generation without tried and tested CCS technologies, particularly in relation to the proposed new coal power station at Kingsnorth in Kent?
5. In the South West in particular, many CPRE members are concerned about the impact on the landscape of the number of onshore wind turbines being built. What limits are there to the contribution of onshore wind power to meeting the nation’s renewable energy targets, and what is the likely balance between the contribution of offshore and onshore wind to these targets?
6. Should nationally designated landscapes, such as the Lake District National Park and Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, be ‘no-go’ areas for intrusive new energy infrastructure, including wind farms and pylons?
7. Leading environmental academic Susan Owens has expressed a worry that ‘climate-related policies will be pursued at the expense of other important environmental attributes…. We do need renewable energy but, to put it crudely, we shouldn’t be putting wind farms in wild locations so that we can continue to drive and take cheap flights as much as we want.’ How can we reconcile the potential conflict between competing ‘environmental goods’?
8. Many CPRE volunteers believe there is a need to bring some light to various debates raging over future energy provision and that costed analysis (capital and running) of various scenarios for energy production will help in this respect. Will the Government provide such an analysis?
9. Technologies including solar power, in the new CIS tower in Manchester, for example; geothermal, such as the proposed Eden project scheme; wave power, being developed in the UK; and anaerobic digestion, which can process farm waste and provide fertiliser at the same time, can play a substantial part in securing delivery of renewable energy. Because wind turbines are so visible, are they in danger of overshadowing investment in these other less visible renewable energy sources? How can you ensure other forms of renewables aren’t deprived of investment and research?
10. CPRE has described opencast mining as one of the most environmentally destructive processes taking place in the UK and we have spearheaded local opposition to these in Durham, Shropshire and Yorkshire. Our experience is that noise, pollution and disruption harm residents, damage urban regeneration and discourage investment. Yet, there is a worrying trend for the Government to overturn local decisions and permit damaging schemes. What action will you take to tackle the growing pressure for an expansion of opencast mining?