A power giant has scrapped its plans to build a windfarm on the moors above Oldham.
But campaigners against the development have been warned not to start celebrating too soon. Energy company E.ON, which made the shock announcement, was quick to warn that it could be back with an alternative scheme.
Nevetheless, it is a good result for campaigners in Saddleworth and will buy them more time to raise funds to fight any future proposals. The plan that has been pulled – for seven 347ft turbines – had already been refused by Oldham Council.
But E.ON had appealed to the planning inspectorate to reverse the decision and an inquiry was to be held in June. E.ON then asked for the hearing to be postponed so it could explore the possibility of burying power lines to reduce the environmental impact of the wind farm.
It had already been scaled down to five 347ft wind turbines and one 331ft turbine after widespread public opposition. Writer Alan Bennett was among those who joined the fight to stop the development. It was after the request for an adjournment was refused that the firm announced it was withdrawing its appeal.
Matt Pinfield, of E.ON, said: “We’re extremely disappointed that the planning inspectorate turned down our request to postpone the public inquiry.
“It would have meant they could have looked at our plans to put the power cables underground. We still believe Denshaw is an excellent place for a wind farm.
“The changes we made to the design – removing one turbine, reducing the height of another and taking the more expensive option of undergrounding power lines – made it a very attractive scheme.
“We certainly haven’t given up hope of getting this project approved and of it being able to make a difference in the fight against climate change.”
David Makin, of Saddleworth Moors Action Group, said he believed an alternative plan with one less turbine was already on the cards.
He said: “We are determined to carry on a very strong fight.
“I would think that over the next few months they will put in another application.
“It will still be a huge industrial complex that is environmentally and visually totally unsuitable. This long drawn-out, tedious and expensive process is set to continue.” Coun Dave Hibbert said: “We did not agree with the company’s request to postpone the June public inquiry because there was insufficient reason to delay the process.
“And any changes to the scheme could have prejudiced the interests of the council and other parties at the inquiry.”
Council planning spokesman Geoff Willerton said: “We will have to wait and see whether E.ON walk away from Denshaw Moor or submit a further planning application.”
By James Ferguson
17 May 2007
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