The leader of Lincolnshire County Council fails to understand why anyone would think the council have a negative bias against onshore wind farms or would consider the survey printed in the County News not to be a fair reflection of public opinion.
So how to explain?
Well, my understanding of the way to gauge public opinion is to randomly select a number of individuals through telephone or face to face contact and then to ask a set of clearly phrased questions that allow a full range of opinion to be registered. The questions should not be ambiguous, ensuring that every interviewee has a similar understanding of the question before answering it.
Once the answers have been logged and recorded, the data needs to be analysed and weighted to ensure that the sample results represent an accurate proportion of the total population. This means taking care that the views of one sector in terms of age, gender or location do not dominate the final result.
A poll such as this can never factually reflect the views of all of the population but it can give an idea of attitudes generally.
The survey that Lincolnshire County Council produced was really a “call to arms”, it was an invitation to those who had strong feelings to have their say. It was pre-empted by months of anti wind farm rhetoric from the council leader, which made the position of the council perfectly plain. It was not a poll of public opinion.
There were 4,000 responses to the survey, 28% came from East Lindsey district which has an active anti wind farm campaign group but only has 19% of the population.
There are approximately 750,000 adults living in Lincolnshire so the survey had a response rate of about 0.5%, a low figure to argue that the results represent a fair view of the whole county.
The survey results showed almost unanimous support for the council guidelines to be considered by the planning authorities, regardless of the fact that the guidelines have no weight in planning law and cannot be considered by the planning authority.
The guidelines have never been published in full within County News but they are available online. If you read the full details and apply them to the existing 7 wind farms in Lincolnshire then most would have failed to gain approval, let alone any new proposals.
National Planning legislation demands “a presumption in favour of sustainable development”. However the council guidelines require “a presumption against wind turbine developments”.
So what is going on here? Why are the council so intent on producing a set of planning guidelines that have no legitimate function and directly contradict central government policy?
Perhaps this is a clue? This passage is taken from a report written to the councillors authored by Alan Freeman LCC head of planning, on June 6, 2012.
“As the author states, the County Council is not the local planning authority nor is it a local plan making body. As such the County Council has no ability to make planning statements or policy and this statement should be given as a political statement only”
The point of the exercise, in my opinion, is to attempt to derail central government policy on the continued deployment of onshore wind farms and support the rebellious section of the Conservative party that do not believe global warming is an issue worth bothering with.
This is why I believe the behaviour of our county council in this matter is improper. It represents a gross misuse of public funds and an abuse of the powers delegated to them by the electorate.
If you agree that the council should stop promoting a negative image of wind power then please sign the No Bias on Wind online petition.