Wind turbines in the Leighton Buzzard area

If we are to replace fossil fuels and mitigate climate change, we need a mix of offshore wind, solar, onshore wind, tidal power, more ground source heat pumps, better insulation and improved battery power. These changes will also reduce household bills and reduce the UK’s dependence on imports.

Large-scale onshore wind (like the turbines at Heath and Reach) is the cheapest form of renewable energy; it is set to become cheaper than gas).

So South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth campaigned to support the planning application for the existing turbine at Double Arches at Heath and Reach.

This wind turbine has produced enough energy to power 1200 houses per year with electricity, and the power goes straight into the local grid in Leighton Buzzard. This is the same amount of power as produced by the solar farm at Egginton, but it uses much less land.

After planning permission for the turbine was granted, the signal for local TV was switched over to a different transmitter. This had the unexpected result of making the wind turbine interfere with TV reception in many local homes, but the developer, Arnold White Estates, immediately paid for engineers to resolve the problem.

In 2016, Arnold White Estates submitted an application to Central Bedfordshire Council for a second wind turbine (Checkley Wood). We spent the year campaigning in support, especially by encouraging local residents to write in to support the turbine through stalls in Leighton Buzzard and knocking on  doors in Heath and Reach. This was particularly important as the government changed the planning rules in 2015 so that, unlike other planning applications, in the case of wind turbines there had to be community support in order for planning permission to be granted. As with many wind turbine planning applications, there was a strong protest movement. There were 147 individual emails for the wind turbine and 576 template emails and or online petitions against the wind turbine, (template emails count as one email). But there were also 250 individual letters supporting the wind turbine, with only twelve from more than 12 km away*.

As a result of the community support confirmed by these letters the wind turbine became the first in England to get permission since 2015. We believe that the decision was also helped by a large public meeting on climate change chaired by the local MP Andrew Selous and organised by Low Carbon Leighton Linslade, which is a coalition of South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth and Leighton Linslade Christian Ecology.

One of the wind turbines, from the air

* Breakdown of letters of support received: 41 from Heath and Reach, 173 from Leighton Buzzard, 4 from Eaton Bray, 4 from Dunstable, 3 from Ellsborough, 2 from Stanbridge, 2 from Wing, 2 from Hockcliffe, 1 from Leagrave, 1 from Newton Leys, 1 from Stewkley, 1 from Stoke Hammond, 1 from Tebworth, 1 from Totternhoe, 1 from Bletchley and a further 12 from addresses over more than from the site.

Some facts about wind turbines’ contribution to our energy requirements here.

To combat climate change [link], by 2050 we need to cut our emissions in the UK by 80% from the 1990 level; this was enshrined in law in the Climate Change Act 2008. The Act came about as the result of lobbying from Friends of the Earth and other organisations around the country. To meet these deadlines, a series of carbon budgets have been set by the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC). The Committee produces annual reports for parliament on progress towards these targets. In 2011 an 2016 the fourth and fifth carbon budgets were approved by parliament.

Although we are doing well in terms of cutting emissions, the UK is currently unlikely to meet its targets to cut emissions from 2023 onwards as the government has not planned sufficient action during the 2020s to support the transition to a low-carbon economy, even though the Climate Change Minister Claire Perry talks about a zero carbon UK economy.

In the next 14 years we need a 62% cut in emissions from power and a 44% cut in emissions from transport (see this 2017 Report to Parliament on meeting carbon budgets; page 14). By the 2030s, the UK needs to be largely powered by low-carbon sources of electricity.

For more information, see the National Friends of the Earth briefing ‘Switching on’ which looks at how we keep the lights on, discussing the problem of intermittency and other related issues.

TV was switched over to a different transmitter. This had the unexpected result of making the wind turbine interfere with TV reception in many local homes, but the developer, Arnold White Estates, immediately paid for engineers to resolve the problem.

In 2016, Arnold White Estates submitted an application to Central Bedfordshire Council for a second wind turbine (Checkley Wood). We spent the year campaigning in support, especially by encouraging local residents to write in to support the turbine through stalls in Leighton Buzzard and knocking on  doors in Heath and Reach. This was particularly important as the government changed the planning rules in 2015 so that, unlike other planning applications, in the case of wind turbines there had to be community support in order for planning permission to be granted. As with many wind turbine planning applications, there was a strong protest movement. There were 147 individual emails for the wind turbine and 576 template emails and or online petitions against the wind turbine, (template emails count as one email). But there