Council throws out windfarm but may face public inquiry
Last updated at 11:22, Thursday, 11 October 2012
COPELAND Council is on a collision course with a renewable energy giant over its refusal to allow a controversial £17million windfarm to be built.
Councillors voted today (Wednesday) for the second – and final – time to refuse planning permission for the six-turbine Weddicar Rigg development.
However, they were earlier told by Phil Dyke, the development director for applicants Banks Renewables, that the company would take the matter to an independent public inquiry if – as they subsequently did – councillors threw the plans out.
Councillors voted five to two against the windfarm - complete with 115m high (377ft) turbines - earmarked for an elevated area of land between Moresby Parks and Frizington.
Standing by the refusal decision they originally made last month, councillors ruled that the negative visual impact the windfarm would have was more important than the government’s policy on renewable energy.
Mr Dyke said after the meeting that the company was “exceptionally disappointed” with the decision. The plans attracted 662 letters of objection and 124 letters of support.
One of the objectors, John Vout, told councillors at the decision-making meeting : “The visual impact would be severe and ruinous to the local valley. The turbines would be higher than the valley is deep; it’s an unblemished valley and we hope it will remain that way.”
He also raised concern about the impact on biodiversity, recreation and tourism.
Councillor Alan Jacob said: “The government bias towards renewable energy conflicts with local people being allowed to decide what they want to happen in their area.”
Coun Jackie Bowman said: “I represent a parish [Distington] that is swamped with windfarms and turbines; there has to be a point in the future when we say that enough is enough.”
Moresby, Arlecdon and Frizington and Weddicar parish councils had lodged protests with concerns about visual impact and the harmful effect of the turbines on tourism and wildlife.
Coun Mike McVeigh added: “We have gone on record to support windfarms before, but enough is enough. The visual impact is far too great to ignore in this instance.”
Councillors had again been urged by their officers to approve the plans, and were told that the government’s policy in favour of renewable energy should outweigh the negative impact the windfarm would have.
They were also asked to consider that the package of community benefits – including a apprentice scheme with Lakes College to create 600 positions and a minimum £30,000-a-year donation to a community fund for the 25-year lifespan of the windfarm – when making their decision.
John Groves, Copeland’s head of planning, told them: “This development has a significant impact but we have to asses that impact against national policy guidance that favours sustainable development. In this case, the policy takes precedent.
“We have taken experienced external advice which has shown that our conclusions are justified.”
Mr Groves also told councillors that their grounds for refusal must be “robust” in anticipation of a possible appeal.
Mr Dyke, for Banks, said: “We challenge people who say that the whole community is against this development. We had an independent telephone survey carried out which showed opinion is divided 50/50.”
Mr Dyke added that the plans had been supported by Natural England, in terms of managing the hen harriers that live on the site, and that the local business community “acknowledges that there are great opportunities for them.”
After the meeting, he said: “The report produced by Copeland’s planning officers was extremely clear in recognising both the strength and merits of our planning application, so it is exceptionally disappointing that the Council’s planning committee has chosen to go against their advice for a second time.
“It is difficult to comprehend why visual impact has been highlighted by the committee as an issue within our proposal when this goes against the findings of the council’s own report, and when the equivalent report from the Lake District National Park Authority does not contain substantial concerns on this point either.
“The generation of substantial amounts of renewable energy is only the beginning of the compelling argument that we believe we made in favour of the Weddicar Rigg windfarm, and it would provide an opportunity to build a long-lasting legacy across many different fronts.
“Dozens of new jobs, training opportunities for hundreds of local young people, substantive measures to tackle fuel poverty across the area and around £750,000 of funding for community projects are all central to the proposal we submitted.”
First published at 16:37, Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
Have your say
COPELAND Council are a bunch of Luddites and it's they who are on a collision course... with the electorate!Wind turbines only have lifespan of around 20 years, then something else will be flavour of the month, they'll be decommissioned and removed. In the mean time much needed cash is injected into community along with jobs with transferable skills.
Good it been rejeted - Banks Renewables should accept the decision and go elswhere - preferably somewhere outside of Cumbria. We are over run with these useless eyesore in Cumbria they are a blot on our landscape! They should not be able to force a costly public enquiry.
View all 4 comments on this article