Wind and solar farms have become an accepted part of
the Cornish landscape and can even enhance holidays, a new survey says.
The study was commissioned by South West green electricity supplier Good Energy, the owner of the UK’s first commercial wind farm at Delabole in Cornwall.
It comes after the Western Morning News reported that wind turbines would soon outnumber church spires as the iconic landmark in the Westcountry.
The detrimental effect on tourism is one of the main reasons cited by landscape campaigners who oppose the proliferation of turbines.
But the research, believed to be the first of its kind and conducted during August, found that, for the majority of visitors, the presence of wind and solar farms in the Duchy had no impact on their visit.
Asked whether the presence of wind and solar farms would make a difference to their decision to visit Cornwall again, more than nine out of ten (94%) said they would make no difference whatsoever.
Some 4% said they would actually encourage them to visit again and 2% said they would be less likely to visit again as a result.
David Bryans, general manager at Land’s End, said the survey findings were in line with his experience. “Our visitors have to travel through Cornwall to reach us, so they pass a number of wind turbines on the way but not once have I had it raised as an issue,” he said.
The independent research was carried out by the Exeter-based South West Research Company and involved 200 hours of face-to-face interviews with 1,007 holidaymakers at six holiday locations across Cornwall.
Jeremy Varcoe, of conservation group Cornwall Protect, said the fact the study had been commissioned by an energy firm “severely” damaged its credibility. However, he also said surveys by “anti” groups were often skewed and called on Cornwall Council to include an assessment on the effects of tourism as part of its planning process for schemes.
“The majority of the people surveyed are probably urban dwellers who are usually in favour of wind turbines,” he added. “There is evidence that bed and bed and breakfast businesses close to turbines have fewer customers.
“It only affects people when it comes to a choice between somewhere with a turbine and somewhere without one – and then I believe the answer would be very different.”
Surveys were carried out on a random basis along the seafront or beach areas at Padstow, Perranporth, Tintagel/Trebarwith, Widemouth Bay, Newquay and Penzance.
Just over a third (35%) of visitors were aware of solar farms in Cornwall, of whom 71% said their presence had no impact, 22% said there was a positive impact and 7% said they had a negative impact.
Merlin Hyman, chief executive of Regen SW, said wind and solar could secure power, cut bills and create jobs without “any significant impact on tourism”.
The full report is available at goodenergy.co.uk.