The prospect of windfarm development has been hanging over parts of North Devon like the “Sword of Damocles” for almost 20 years, the area’s MP told a public inquiry.
Liberal Democrat Nick Harvey said the Fullabrook area between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe deserved to have the prospect of wind turbine development lifted from it after four earlier applications were rejected at public inquiry.
He was speaking at the public inquiry being held in Barnstaple into plans by Exeter-based firm Devon Wind Power to build 22 turbines, each 360ft tall, at Fullabrook Down.
If the plan got the go-ahead it would lead to the creation of England’s biggest onshore windfarm, but Mr Harvey urged inquiry inspector Dr Chris Gossop to recommend that the Secretary of State refuse the proposal.
“The prospect of windfarm development has hung over the residents of this part of North Devon like the Sword of Damocles for almost 20 years,” he said.
“No less than four previous applications have been submitted for parts of this site and the adjoining area. Each, in turn, has been refused by the local planning authority, and each in turn has progressed to a public inquiry. Each of four planning inspectors has deliberated on the arguments and all four came to the same unequivocal conclusion – refusal.”
Mr Harvey said that in light of the area’s planning history it was “almost perverse” for the county council to state the area was in its “area of search” for wind power projects. “It is time that residents’ minds were put at rest with a forceful recommendation to the Secretary of State for refusal in line with the previous decisions,” he said.
Mr Harvey, who has been MP for North Devon since 1992, told yesterday’s sitting of the inquiry, now in its third week, that he was very much in favour of renewable forms of energy – but not all forms of renewable energy were appropriate in every location.
He said: “While obviously there is a wide diversity of views on the appropriateness of this form of development, the balance of public opinion is that this is the wrong development, in the wrong place, and at the wrong time.”
Although he supported the Government’s wish to increase energy supplies from renewable sources, and its decision to relax some of the strictures on windfarm developments, it had led to an “unseemly rush to wind” as almost the sole option to meet targets.
The proposal would have a major impact on the landscape, which “must surely be accepted by all parties, whether supporters or opponents of the scheme”.
“The turbines will be visible for many miles and from a large number of vantage points closer to the proposed site,” he said. “Whether people see them as aesthetically pleasing or an abomination, they will have an impact and in no sense can they be hidden or disguised.”
Mr Harvey pointed out that other forms of renewable energy in North Devon, including a marine current turbine tested at Lynmouth, offered greater potential benefits.
The inquiry resumes on Tuesday.
By Mark Clough
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