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Bickham Moor Appeal Decision

“I dismiss the appeal and refuse planning permission …”

Inquiry opened on 9 June 2009; Accompanied site visits made on 2 & 3 July 2009; by Philip Major BA(Hons) DipTP MRTPI, an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Appeal Ref: APP/Y1138/A/08/2084526
Bickham Moor, Kirkton Lane, Oakford, Devon EX16 9HB.

1. I dismiss the appeal and refuse planning permission for the construction and operation of a four turbine wind farm for electricity generation, including ancillary buildings and activities, with a maximum rated output of 12mw at Bickham Moor, Kirkton Lane, Oakford, Devon EX16 9HB.

Main issues
36. The main issues in the appeal are:

  1. The effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the landscape, and on the setting of the Exmoor National Park;
  2. The cumulative effect of the proposal when considered with the proposed developments at Three Moors, Cross Moor and Batsworthy Cross;
  3. The effect of the proposal on the living conditions of local residents, with particular reference to visual intrusion and noise;
  4. The effect of the proposal on ecology;
  5. The effect of the proposal on tranquillity, tourism and cultural heritage

50. The height of the site in relation to surrounding land also means that within about 3km, where visible, the turbines would tend to be stark skyline features. There would be nothing to relieve the skyline impact unless vegetation close to the viewer was able to mitigate public views. Taken in the round, though, and whatever opinion is formed on the attractiveness or otherwise of the turbines as structures in themselves, the wind farm would appear as being drastically at odds with the character and appearance of the local landscape.

57. So the effect on the character and appearance of the area, and the setting of Exmoor, can be summarised thus. The visual experience will vary from location to location, and will be of a major and substantial intrusion in places. There would be serious harm to landscape character. But from some places there would be levels of visibility and intrusion which would not, in my judgement, be so harmful as to weigh against the proposal. I consider that the skyline views and movement of blades would, notwithstanding the separation from Exmoor, impinge upon the appreciation of the special qualities of Exmoor to a material degree. The proposal would therefore be in conflict with relevant landscape protection objectives of RPG10 Policy EN1, Structure Plan Policies ST1, CO1, CO2, CO6 and CO12. There is also conflict with Local Plan Policies S5v) and S6i) & xvi), and Core Strategy Policies COR2c) and COR5a). Given that I find the proposal harmful there is also conflict with Core Strategy Policy COR18. In the draft RSS there is conflict with part of Policy SD3, Polices ENV1, ENV2 and ENV3.

113. The factors which compete here are the clear: serious harm to landscape and to the special qualities of the National Park, with resultant conflict with the development plan policies and national advice; this is set against the undoubted support offered by other development plan, national and unmerging policy for developments such as this which are required to combat climate change.

114. In this instance, whilst recognising that the need to increase renewable energy capacity and to reduce CO2 emissions is of crucial importance, I cannot agree that the balance lies in favour of development. PPS22 indicates that renewable energy developments should be capable of being accommodated throughout England, but that is qualified by the need to address environmental, economic and social impacts satisfactorily. In this case environmental impacts have not been satisfactorily addressed in my judgement. The harm I have identified, to the local landscape, to the setting of Exmoor, and cumulatively with other proposals, in addition to the uncertainty surrounding the protection of living conditions, would simply be too great. Apart from the conflict with policy noted above, this also leads to conflict with Local Plan Policy ENV2iv). The production of renewable energy, important as it is, does not justify the development, even for a time limited period of 25 years. The balance is too heavily weighted against the proposal in this case. I have considered whether the imposition of the suggested conditions would mitigate the harm identified but conclude that they would not.

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