AONB – should look to a green future not the past – says Footprint Trust

A leading Island conservation charity has warned against a backward-looking romantic view of yesteryear when looking at the future of the IW AONB. The IW AONB is in the process of review its management plan for the future period 2009 to 2014.
The Footprint Trust, which supports conservation of the environment, has made a number of comments.
“….the AONB status for some 50% of the Isle of Wight should not be taken as argument to stop all development and innovation. National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, which created the designation, does not insist that the Countryside is kept as a living museum or frozen in aspic as some preservationists would hope. Humans have moulded the landscape since the Stoneage – what we see is what we have permitted, changed and managed. Traditionally we have harvested food, timber and aggregates. In the future we will also harvest wind once again –ironically going back to the time when the South of England had some 10,000 windmills…..”

The Trust is forthright in its support for renewable energy…

‘The proposed policy would mean that rather than having a few large wind turbines, it we would have several smaller ones. To produce the same amount of energy, a greater number of smaller turbines would be required. The visual impact would therefore be greater and the infrastructure would also have to be put in to link these turbines to the grid, and so the environmental impact would be greater. This is surely an illogical policy, and suggests that a greater understanding of the wider environmental picture and the science of wind technology is needed.
Also, stating that the clusters should be no less than 10 km apart puts a severe restriction on the total number of possible sites on the Island.’

‘This policy is saying in reality that no wind turbines will be permitted anywhere on the Isle of Wight, except in valleys and in towns. The wind turbines that would be permitted would be micro wind turbines, which in most applications are little more than ‘executive toys’ generating very little power. ‘

‘These proposed policies would mean that the AONB would be failing to look at the real issues and is listening too much to those who oppose change in the countryside.’

‘The Island is heavily dependent on fuel from the mainland and indeed the rest of the world, producing less than 1% from its own sources. At the moment it is easy to debate and discuss our future energy needs and where they might come from. A different matter when the lights start going out. It is government policy, and that of the Isle of Wight Council, that 10% of our electricity needs should be met by renewables by 2010.

The biggest threat to the people, wildlife and the landscape of the Isle of Wight is not a handful of wind turbines but Climate Change. Renewable energy gives us an independent local source of power reducing our dependence on power from the mainland and further afield.’

The Island is in real danger of failing to meet its target of 10% renewables by 2010 due to an irrational opposition to a few wind turbines. In the future we can look forward to other renewable options, including biomass, solar, tidal turbines etc. We can also look forward to opposition to these technologies when preservationists and NIMBY’s act to keep everything as it currently is.

The need to conserve our energy through greater efficiency must not be overlooked either. High fuel prices, linked to diminishing oil supplies and an increasing unstable world, will hit everyone – particularly the rural poor.

‘We support the statement that many of the Island’s woodlands need to be brought back into management. Such management could improve the biodiversity of wildlife, particularly through a coppicing regime. They could also provide a sustainable source of fuel, meeting some of our energy needs.
Use of native trees is preferable for use as bio-fuels rather than non-native crops. Use of waste wood from building sites etc should also be harvested for fuel.’

The Footprint Trust would add that affordable modern homes for the future should be an aspiration. These should be built to the highest BREEM standard possible. New designs should be welcomed, using locally sourced materials. A genuine new “Eco-Village” should not be ruled out and neither should development on greenfield sites if such sites have low wildlife interest.

‘We agree that public transport needs to be regular, reliable, affordable and convenient if it is to provide an alternative to the car. Walking and cycling also offer opportunities for non-vehicular travel for work and leisure. However, we also need to consider modern and future-looking transport solutions. Promotion of ‘Liftsharing’ schemes to reduce car use and promote car-sharing would be one example. The Isle of Wight needs an innovative tramway or light railway network linking major areas of population. This could share existing cycleways – formerly part of the rail network. This sustainable transport option giving a real alternative to the car. A very necessary move with an increasing elderly and disabled population. ‘

Visiting & Enjoying
‘The AONB, the Isle of Wight Council, landowners and farmers are to be commended on the excellent network of well-maintained and accessible public footpaths.’

‘Whilst we agree that tourism is an important part of Island life and provides jobs, there are also negative impacts. The majority of tourists visiting the Isle of Wight are using cars rather than other modes of transport. This is increasing pollution and, in some cases, causing noise and distress to residents. We would point out that tourism is not the only industry on the Island. Those working in tourism are often poorly paid and only have seasonal employment. Long-term, well-paid and sustainable jobs should be seen as a goal.’

‘Green Tourism is the way forward. Encouraging people to use the greatly improved bus services, and to cycle and walk as part of their holiday. The Green Island Award scheme is to be commended on its many achievements in this field, as is the Island 2000 Trust. Appreciating the heritage, culture and achievements of the Island should be promoted. A modern holiday centre and hotel complex built using green building principles, served by public transport and powered by renewable energy, possibly within the AONB, should be a common aim.’


A copy of the Footprint Trust’s full comments are available by request.