April 12, 2007

Firm's double blow for wind farm plan

Wind farm business Wind Prospect has suffered a double whammy with a second rejection of plans for five massive wind turbines on the moors at Pica. Copeland councillors voted a No vote for the second time on Wednesday (April 4).

But the company has already revealed it is to lodge an appeal to the government.

Copeland Mayor andDistington ward councillor Willis Metherell made a passionate plea for the planning application to be rejected.

Last month Copeland planning panel voted down the plans 5-3, but under current rules the panel has to vote again when they go against the recommendation of their own officers, as has been the case with the windfarm plan. On Wednesday the planning panel voted again and this time rejected the plans by a 6-4 vote.

One of the nature conservation issues that the windfarm planners had to consider was the likelihood of rare hen harriers being slaughtered in the massive wind turbines.

Supporters of the windturbine plans were at the back of the room wearing Wind Power T shirts as the councillors discussed the issue. The application was by Bristol-based Wind Prospect on land at Fairfield Farm that had in the past been an opencast coal site.

In 1995 a plan for 13 windmills on the same site was thrown out.

Head of development services, Tony Pomfret warned the councillors they had to have “clear and convincing reasons to go against the recommendation of officers…don’t let personal prejudice influence you.” Coun Jim Hewitson also warned that the council had faced a stiff cost penalty when it “appealed and lost in the hearing over the Lowca windfarm”.

Coun Metherell said contrary to claims by the developer the windfarm would be of no benefit to Pica. She said the village had already suffered a 300 acre opencast project that had been abandoned three years later. She reminded councillors the wind turbines would be as high as Whitehaven’s Candlestick chimney.

On behalf of WindProspect Adrian Maddox pointed out government policy had changed in favour of wind power and “it will be a benefit to everyone in terms of countering global warming.”

But coun John Jackson was scathing and said: “Greedy big business wants to contaminate our landscape with these monstrosities, with massive amounts of money for the landowners….they produce no jobs.” He said new nuclear reactors would be a better move.

Coun Gilbert Scurrah said he would vote for the windfarm: “To build a new nuclear station would take 20 years so wind power can be used temporarily to fill the energy gap…they can be taken down very quickly in future.”

Among those watching the meeting was county councillor Tim Knowles who said after wards the vote to refuse consent was ” a victory for common sense”.

One side issue of the planning application was the importance of the risk to rare hen harriers. Natural England told the planning panel: “The environmental statement recognises the value of the area for hen harriers and identified a number of threats. Natural England accepts the developer’s findings of no likely impact from the scheme as submitted with respect to collision mortality risk. However there should be a requirement to monitor the actual impacts if the scheme goes ahead.”

Reacting to the No votes, Mellissa Warren, development manager said; “Wind Prospect is very disappointed with the planning committee decision as it goes against Copeland Borough Councils’ and Cumbria County council’s planning officer recommendations for approval.

“The application site at Fairfield Farm has been carefully selected and lies within a “˜Preferred Area of Search for Wind Energy’ as defined by Cumbria County Council in wind energy policy guidance Technical paper 6: Planning for Renewable Energy Development in Cumbria, published by Cumbria County Council in 2003. The application has been subject to a detailed environmental assessment and has concluded that the site is suitable.

“Copeland Borough Council commissioned its own review of the landscape and visual assessment submitted with this planning application. The report concluded that “˜the Fairfield Farm Wind Farm is judged to be located in one of the optimum parts of Cumbria for such development.’

“In Cumbria, it is estimated that a further 140MW of onshore wind energy will need to be consented this year if Cumbria is to meet its regional renewable energy target of producing 10 per cent of the region’s electricity from renewable sources by 2010 as set out in the draft Regional Spatial Strategy. The proposed Fairfield Farm wind farm would have an installed capacity of 6.5 MW, and will contribute approximately 4.6 per cent towards this remaining target. The planning officer’s report states “within the Cumbrian context, the Fairfield Farm scheme is the type of proposal which will need to be approved if there is any realistic prospect of the sub- regional targets being achieved.

“Within the proposed Fairfield Farm wind farm, we have a suitably designed site in a suitable location. The application meets national, regional and local planning policies and, on balance, subject to conditions is considered to be acceptable. As such, Wind Prospect plans to appeal this decision.”

By David Siddall

whitehaven-news.co.uk [1]

12 April 2007

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2007/04/12/firms-double-blow-for-wind-farm-plan/

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[1] whitehaven-news.co.uk: http://www.whitehaven-news.co.uk/news/viewarticle.aspx?id=486371