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Park Authority raises objection to wind farm

Opposition to plans for England’s biggest windfarm on the fells at Whinash, near Tebay, is growing after the Lake District National Park Authority agreed to lodge an objection to the scheme, reports Justin Hawkins.

Authority members this week voted overwhelmingly to add their voices to the chorus of calls for the Department of Trade and Industry to resist West Coast Energy Limited’s application to put up 27 turbines beside the A6 Shap Road – on the border of the Lake District National Park.

Each of the proposed turbines would be 115 metres tall to the tip of its blades almost three-and-a-half times the height of Kendal Town Hall to the top of its weather vane (33.8m).

Cumbria County Council has already objected and anti-windfarm campaigners have collected thousands of petition signatures and letters against the plan.

Kyle Blue from the “No Whinash Windfarm” group told LDNPA’s development control committee that the Government’s quest to increase the amount of wind-generated electricity was a red herring; and its target of generating 20 per cent of the UK’s energy from sustainable sources by 2020 was unattainable.

Dr Michael Hall, of Kirkby Lonsdale, warned that allowing Whinash to go ahead would set a precedent and pave the way for similar developments on the Howgills, Mallerstang Common and Middleton Fells.

But Steve Molloy, of West Coast Energy, warned the authority that if plans for Whinash and at least one other large windfarm in Cumbria did not get the go-ahead, members’ fears that the National Park could be surrounded by a “ring of steel” could come true. Dozens of smaller windfarms could spring up to meet the Government’s sustainable energy targets for the county.

He said he was unsurprised by the authority’s decision and said: “We have always taken the view that this was always going to end in a public inquiry.” But he added that he was confident his company would win the argument at a public inquiry.

But Pete Winter, LDNPA’s acting chief planning officer, said: “Our conclusion is that the harm caused is not outweighed by the benefits.”

He also told members: “If I had to express an emotional response to it I would say I feel it would be a betrayal of the principle of the National Park and an insult to every organisation that has protected it over the last 50 years.”

LDNPA member Alan Clark told the meeting that the plans should be vigorously opposed, but added that, judging on precedents set in other parts of the UK, he was not optimistic that the DTi could be prevented from giving the go-ahead.

Developers were likely to fall back on new Government planning policy statement PPS22. This planning guidance, drafted late last year, says planning authorities must take into account the wider environmental implications when determining windfarm applications.

The LDNPA will now send the DTi its full report on the Whinash proposals, outlining objections on several grounds, including detrimental impacts on environment, ecology, landscape character, and visual impact.

The public inquiry is likely to held in the autumn of this year.

Cumbria County Council has already lodged a “strong objection” to the Whinash proposals, and, like South Lakeland District Council, asked for a public inquiry.

Eden District Council is due to decide its response to the DTi consultation on January 18.

By Justin Hawkins

The Westmoreland Gazette

9 January 2004