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Sillfield Appeal Decision

“I dismiss the appeal and refuse planning permission.”

Inquiry held on 16-23 October 2009; Site visits made on 23, 27, 28 October 2009 and 13 January 2010; by Robin Brooks BA (Hons) MRTPI, an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Appeal Ref: APP/M0933/A/09/2099304
Sillfield, Gatebeck, Kendal, Cumbria LA8 0HS

DECISION
1. I dismiss the appeal and refuse planning permission. …

10. Bearing in mind the aims of the above policies, and as set out at the Inquiry, I consider that there are five main issues in the appeal, namely:

  1. the effects of the proposal upon the character and appearance of the surrounding landscape;
  2. the cumulative impact of the proposal upon the character and appearance of the surrounding landscape, taken together with other similar developments, both existing and proposed and, in particular, that at Old Hutton1;
  3. the effects of the proposal upon the living conditions of local residents, particularly in terms of visual impact, noise and shadow flicker;
  4. the effects of the proposal upon enjoyment of the countryside by members of the public, including those using local rights of way; and whether approval would have any significant adverse effects on the contribution made by tourism and recreation to the local economy; and
  5. the contribution that the proposal would make to achieving regional and national targets for renewable energy generation, bearing in mind extant and emerging national planning policy; and the extent to which any such contribution should be weighed against any adverse impacts in terms of the other issues.

83. Nor do I accept the Appellants various arguments that the imperative to increase renewable energy generation capacity is such that only the most severe or widespread environmental impacts are capable of outweighing it; or that proposals such as that at Sillfield, affecting land with no designations of national or regional value, should not be refused because of local landscape impacts; or for reasons other than the most compelling purpose, pitched at the level of a national rather than local interest. PPS22 does not depart from the principle that planning proposals should be assessed on their individual merits and there is no indication in statements of policy since that visual and landscape effects are to carry less weight than hitherto. Thus whilst one of the most recent such statements, the UK Renewable Energy Strategy published in July 2009, states that the planning system must be speeded up and made more predictable in the way that it deals with proposals for renewables, it includes the caveats that we must also continue to protect our environment and natural heritage and respond to the legitimate concerns of local communities.

84. In my analysis of landscape impacts I have noted the quiet charm of the local countryside and, whilst it carries no formal designations, this does not mean that it should be implicitly downgraded. …

89. The harm to the living conditions of local residents through the turbines dominating the outlook from nearby properties is also a compelling objection to the appeal proposal, whether it is assessed on its own or in combination with Armistead (issue (iii)). Given the severity of the harm to individual properties, the fact that relatively few dwellings are affected is not in itself significant. …

90. … I have also borne in mind the fact that planning permission is sought for a period of 25 years. However, as such a time period is roughly a third of an average lifetime I have some difficulty in regarding it as “temporary” in any real sense. If the turbines would cause significant harm to landscape character, as I believe is the case here, that harm would not be made more acceptable by the prospect of their ultimate removal.

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