Campaigners who fought a plan to build nine wind turbines more than twice the height of Exeter Cathedral in a Devon valley are “devastated” that a planning inspector has given it the go-ahead.
Members of Den Brook Valley Action Group (DBVAG) said yesterday that granting Renewable Energy Systems (RES) planning permission to build the 394ft turbines between North Tawton and Bow was a “black day for Devon”.
The application was turned down by West Devon Borough Council and taken to appeal by RES, which said the proposal would generate enough electricity to power more than 10,000 homes.
Maureen Thomson, chairman of DBVAG, said: “This is a very black day for Devon.
“If this scheme was going to make a real contribution to renewable energy needs, there could be some excuse.
“But what it will do is wreck a beautiful landscape and the whole economy of this area.”
She warned that granting planning permission for the scheme would “open the floodgates” to let other developers into the area.
Jenny Rosser, DBVAG’s vice-chairman, said that the scheme had been opposed by every council in the area and had attracted a huge number of objections from local people.
“It seems incredible to me that the inspector can say that is not important when it comes to looking at the issue,” she said.
“History will show that all these wind turbines are a farce when it comes to generating renewable energy.
“People believe the turbines are green, but they aren’t.”
Rachel Ruffle, project manager for RES, said the scheme would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, and, as well as generating electricity, would bring a range of local benefits.
These include a £27,000-a-year community fund for local projects, a sustainable income for farmers on whose land the turbines will be built and local sourcing of labour and materials, as well as wildlife enhancements at the site.
“We are very pleased with the inspector’s decision,” she said.
“It allows the Den Brook windfarm to make a contribution to important national and regional efforts to meet renewable energy targets, cut greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the serious impacts of climate change.
“We are also looking forward to bringing economic and environmental benefits to the area.
“We took the project to appeal because there was local public support for the project and because we were confident that we had designed a low-impact windfarm that would bring benefits on a national, regional and local scale.
“We are delighted that this has been confirmed by the inspector’s decision.”
RES said it was too early to say when work would start on the project. The terms of the planning permission granted by the inspector state that work must begin within four years.
In his decision, inquiry inspector David Lavender said: “Climate change is a complex subject but there is now little doubt that, for whatever reasons, it is happening.
“If it is to be tackled by mankind, action needs to be taken on a wide range of levels, including by individual communities in the United Kingdom.
“The siting of development will always involve difficult choices over locations that, for one reason or several, are regarded by local people as particularly precious.
“It is thus rarely possible for the planning process to progress on the basis of absolute consensus. The process also cannot rely simply on a straw poll of those in favour and those against.
“This is especially so in the case of infrastructure projects that benefit the wider community but impact directly upon individuals in a particular area who are able to co-ordinate forceful local opposition.”
Dennis Bater, deputy chairman of West Devon Borough Council’s planning committee, said the essence of the committee’s objection to the plan was that the development was out of scale with the landscape and would be detrimental to residents.
“The council’s views have not changed,” he said.
13 February 2007
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