As the new year approaches a key item on the agenda is likely to be energy.
Both the provision of renewable energy and the search for more fossil fuels. A recent application at a development control committee meeting at South Kesteven District Council was debated. The application for the installation of a large solar farm on a site which is of high agricultural value was heavily debated and ultimately rejected due to concerns over loss of agricultural land. It was clear that, as the need for renewable energy increases, some key district council policies guiding committee members are lacking.
Last year, SKDC produced a Wind Energy Policy Document. I suggested that we need a broader renewable energy/energy strategy that makes it clear to all concerned how the council will respond to the growing need and opportunities to deliver renewable energy. This request for a more holistic approach was ignored at the time.
In the meanwhile, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is pushing ahead with granting licenses opening up the majority of our country to fracking, enabling energy companies to search for fossil fuels. Lincolnshire is one of the largest oil and gas producing counties in the UK. This government action could have a profound impact on our county with Lincolnshire County Council holding responsibility for planning decisions regarding mining and mineral production.
We are at a critical time. Recent events highlight the increasing vulnerability of our land to flood risks. These have been linked to the use of fossil fuels and global warming.
People object to the production of both renewable and fossil fuels yet are increasingly dependent upon them. Each planning application must be decided on its own merit. But, by their nature, those involving energy supply will often be contentious. It is vital, therefore, that our local authorities have the policies in place to ensure decisions are made which reflect both the needs and concerns of local people.
I believe we also need a government willing to invest far more in seeking alternative technologies and sources of renewable energy and energy use reduction. Such an investment could make us world leaders in green energy production and that, in many ways, would help provide a future for our younger generations.