The rejection at a planning inquiry of a controversial plan to build three massive wind turbines on the edge of Dartmoor has given hope to campaigners fighting against onshore wind turbines that future planning appeals will also fail.Campaigners against onshore wind turbine development were celebrating last night.
They said they hoped the decision rejecting the three 266ft-high turbines because of visual intrusion would pave the way for further refusals at planning inquiries into Westcountry windfarm applications in the next few weeks.
The opponents of West Coast Energy’s plan to build the turbines at Yelland, near Okehampton, welcomed planning inspector Keith Smith’s decision to reject the proposal because of its impact on the landscape.
Although other applications have been turned down at appeal in the Westcountry, the Yelland proposal is the first one to have been rejected in the current push for renewable energy.
Jonathan Cardale, chief executive of the Dartmoor Preservation Association (DPA), said the planning inspector’s decision on the Yelland application was a “good day” for both Dartmoor and Okehampton.
“The inspector rejected the arguments that these huge turbines would have little or no effect on the Dartmoor National Park or its setting.
“He judged that the effects would be significant and severe both when viewed from the high tors of Dartmoor and from the surrounding countryside with Dartmoor as the backdrop,” said Mr Cardale.
Later this month, a public inquiry will be held at Okehampton into proposals to build nine 394ft-high turbines in the Den Brook Valley near North Tawton, about ten miles from the Yelland site.
Maureen Thomson, chairman of the Den Brook Valley Action Group, which opposes the plan, said that she was delighted that the Yelland proposal had been turned down on the grounds of its visual impact.
“Certainly in the case of Den Brook, the two very important factors are the visual impact on the landscape and the visual intrusion on the local residents,” added Mrs Thomson.
“I am pleased about Yelland but each case is judged independently and we must not be complacent about the outcome of our inquiry.”
Ashley Gray, chairman of the Two Moors Campaign, which opposes a plan to build nine 360ft-high turbines at Batsworthy Cross on the edge of Exmoor, said he was “extremely encouraged” by the Yelland decision.
“We see that decision dovetailing nicely with the application for Batsworthy Cross,” he said.
“This decision confirms the value we as a nation place on Dartmoor as a national park, and its surroundings, which are so special,” he said.
“This decision augurs well for the Den Brook inquiry coming up the week after next in Okehampton.”
The DPA, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Manor House and Ashbury Hotels, and the action group Okehampton and Dartmoor Against Turbines (ODAT) all opposed the turbines and backed West Devon Borough council’s original decision to refuse planning permission for the project, which was considered at a public inquiry in September.
Ray Quirke, chairman of ODAT, said: “We are overjoyed and extremely relieved at the news. These turbines would have blighted our lives.”
West Coast Energy, the firm behind the Yelland plan, said that it was extremely disappointed by the inquiry inspector’s decision.
The firm felt it had showed that the need to protect Dartmoor National Park from “very limited” visual intrusion was greater than the need for renewable energy.
Gerry Jewson, managing director of West Coast Energy, said: “The inspector’s decision appears to attach limited weight to the statutory targets for renewable energy generation in Devon and the Government’s commitment to climate change.”
By Mark Clough