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Lack of consistency in twin turbine appeals, campaigners say

By WMN_PGoodwin  |  Posted: May 01, 2014

Wind turbine

Wind turbine

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Landscape campaigners in the Westcountry said two appeal rulings on wind turbines just a few miles apart - one overturning the refusal of a wind turbine and the other upholding the council decision - shows the unpredictability of Government policy.

A planning inspector has reversed a council decision to refuse planning permission for a 220ft (67m) wind turbine (to blade tip) close to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, near Bude, in Cornwall.

The mast can now go ahead at Little Holloborough Farm, near Eastcott, despite local concern that a three-mile zone around the site already contains 15 turbines, with five more awaiting construction and 11 in the pipeline.

In a separate decision, another inspector upheld the decision to refuse a smaller, nearby turbine at Herdacott Farm, Kilkhampton.

In this case, the inspector ruled that adding the turbine to the existing schemes in the area would have a significant adverse effects on the character and appearance of the surrounding landscape, including the setting of the Grade I listed Church of St. James.

The Campaign for Rural England (CPRE) in Torridge district, which has become a target for renewable energy developers in recent years, said there was no common approach.

Spokesman Penny Mills said these two decisions show that rulings came down to just one person's opinion and projects even close to each other can often be evaluated completely differently.

"Whilst each application should be judged on its own merits, there surely should be agreement about how many turbines can be accommodated in the same landscape," she added.

"Both proposals are located not far from each other yet the individual inspectors express a difference of opinion, particularly regarding cumulative impact - how many turbines is acceptable in this area and landscape.

"In The Little Holloborough Farm decision the inspector concludes that he doesn't think there would be a significant effect on the landscape character of the area despite acknowledging the number of turbines in proximity.

"However, the inspector in the Herdacott appeal, which was refused, specifically mentions that consideration should be given to cumulative impact of turbines."

Communities secretary Eric Pickles introduced a fresh policy steer for planners last summer in a bid to quell a growing backlash against the proliferation of renewable energy schemes, seen as electorally damaging in the Tory rural heartland.

The number of wind turbine decisions overturned on appeal across Devon and Cornwall reduced once this advice for inspectors came into effect, the Western Morning News found, with a 31% drop.

The fall in Devon and Cornwall from 75% to 44% compared to a smaller dip from 54% to 48% nationally has been welcomed, but campaigners say there has been no let-up in the number of schemes landing on planners desks.

The Conservative Party has recently signalled that it intends to block new onshore wind projects with details of the policy expected in its general election manifesto next year.

The industry body for renewable energy Regen South West says the technology is proven and should remain a part of Britain's plans to move away from fossil fuels and calls the sudden removal of subsidy a mistake.

Meanwhile, Torridge District Council has this week turned down plans for a 252ft (77m) wind turbine, just across the border in Devon, at Eastwood Farm, Peters Marland, near Torrington.

But council planning officers are recommending approval of a 188ft (57m) turbine at Holladon Farm, Bridgerule despite an objection from English Heritage.

The final decision will be made by the Torridge plans committee next week, 8th May.

Read more from Western Morning News

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