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Experts landscape approval for wind farm

Coronation Power has received two out of three approvals in landscape terms for the location for a wind farm at Crook Hill, Littleborough. A planning application was submitted in February to Rochdale Council for a 12 turbine, 36MW wind farm at Crook Hill. In the submitted Environmental Impact Assessment, landscape and visual impacts of “the turbines would not fundamentally alter the exposed upland character of the area either alone or in combination with any other consented or constructed wind farm” concluded independent specialist Phil Roden of Axis.

Rochdale Council commissioned a second opinion from Julie Martin Associates who concluded that the wind farm was ‘unacceptable’ in the landscape at Crook Hill. A further study by Lancashire County Council’s Special Landscape Advisor said that the location had “the potential for the development of a small scale cluster of wind turbines at Crook Hill” but it must be “appropriate to the scale of the landscape”.

The Council’s Special Landscape Advisor reported: “I do not see Crook Hill as an area where any wind energy development would be inappropriate”. The “criteria set out in the Lovejoy study would suggest that the site might have capacity” for a smaller cluster of turbines. The landscape impact “would not be to such an extent as to prevent the consideration of any wind energy development”.

Three different qualified professional landscape and visual assessors have reported on the proposed Crook Hill wind farm with the result of three different conclusions. The first conclusion is that the 12 turbine wind farm is acceptable since the “landscape and visual effects will be temporary and there would be no long term impacts”; the second conclusion was that no wind farm at this location would be acceptable; and the third conclusion was that a smaller wind farm at this location would be acceptable, shifting the balance to two to one in favour of a wind farm at the site.

Coronation Power’s PR Officer Danielle Milne says: “The current issue now is not whether a wind farm should be built at this location, but what scale of wind farm should be built at Crook Hill.

“At Coronation’s recent public exhibition in Devon, it was stated by a regional head of CPRE that 80% of a decision to build a wind farm is based on landscape and visual impact, despite all other studies. If two out of three landscape assessors agree the location is acceptable and the council rejects the application, it will be left up to an inspector at an inquiry to decide whether the scale of the Crook Hill wind farm is acceptable or not.

“We believe we have a strong case for the proposed Crook Hill wind farm. If the application goes to an inquiry, our argument to the inspector will be that if a landscape is suitable for a wind farm development, this sustainable and green electricity source should be maximised for the local community with as many turbines as possible. After all, there are limited suitable sites for wind farms in the UK; we should develop the good sites to their full potential especially where they meet regional PPS22 targets and also national targets for renewable energy.”

Rochdale Online

1 November 2007