Representatives from 27 organisations including county and local authorities, environment and countryside groups were involved in drawing up the guidelines. After five months of consultation, the BWEA has produced a comprehensive document that takes developers step by step through every stage of the project from site selection, through development to operation and, eventually, decommissioning.
The guidelines cover technical and commercial considerations, environmental impacts, planning and consultation -- and place special emphasis on dialogue with local communities. Accusations of insensitivity have been levelled by environment groups, and in a recent report by the Welsh Affairs Committee, at some developers who have failed to take adequate notice of local concerns when developing wind farms. The guidelines advise the developer to keep the public informed from the earliest stages of the project, and to take account of local feedback in project design. On this issue the BWEA is at one with Friends of the Earth. In its own guidance, Planning for Wind Power, published in June this year, FoE stressed that genuine local consultation is vital to a project's success.
The guidelines are meant primarily for developers but the BWEA is also sending them to all planning authorities and special interest groups who advise on environmental matters. The are also available to the public on request.
Although the guidelines are voluntary, the BWEA says it expects its members -- and all responsible developers -- to follow them. "We see it more as enlightened self interest on the part of a developer to support them in order to secure the longer term growth of the wind industry," says the BWEA's Michael Harper. Even though the BWEA is powerless to enforce the guidelines, it believes that by setting out what it considers to be best practice, it will be obvious if any developer is not following them. It hopes this open approach will lead to self-regulation in the industry.
Country Guardian, an anti wind farm lobby group which refused to contribute to preparation of the guidelines, has likened them to a "best practice guide to child abuse." The organisation's Robert Woodward, says they equate with telling a child abuser to take account of vital organs. "This is a particularly useless document produced by some very charming and well intetioned people," he comments.