A final decision on whether a controversial wind farm on the outskirts of Burnham-On-Sea can proceed was finally announced on Tuesday (January 15th) – and residents of Brent Knoll are celebrating the outcome!
Wind farm developer Ecotricity had hoped to overturn a decision by Sedgemoor planners to turn down its plans for five 120m tall wind turbines on land off Stoddens Lane.
But the company was told by the Planning Inspectorate in a 35-page report (available here) that its appeal against the decision had been unsuccessful and the project can therefore not go ahead.
Its hopes of building the wind farm were originally dashed in August 2006 when Sedgemoor planners unanimously turned down the scheme.
The authority received 16 letters of support, 210 letters objecting to the scheme and petitions from campaigners kNOll to Wind Farm and Families for Clean Energy (FORCE).
Wind farm firm Next Generation, a subsidiary of renewable energy company Ecotricity, was told it had six months to appeal against the decision and the company subsequently submitted its appeal last December. An inquiry, lasting 10 days, was held in August when Planning Inspector Robin Brookes heard representations from councils, protestors and planners.
Ecotricity claimed the five three-bladed wind turbines would be expected to produce the annual electricity demand of 10,041 houses and that a single wind turbine can prevent up to 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere each year.
There has been a mixed reaction to the verdict in the Burnham area:
ECOTRICITY ‘DISAPPOINTED’ BY THE VERDICT:
A statement issued by Dale Vince said: “Naturally we’re very disappointed. How are we ever going to fight climate change if we can’t build turbines in places not designated areas of natural beauty? This decision makes a mockery of Government policy which is now setting a target for renewables at 40% by 2020.”
“If the Government doesn’t get to grips with the planning system this will never be reached. It would be easier for us to get permission to build a nuclear power station! It’s a ridiculous situation.”
BURNHAM TOWN COUNCIL REACTS TO THE DECISION:
Deputy Mayor Cllr Neville Jones said on Tuesday afternoon: “Burnham and Highbridge Town Council is pleased that the relatively small part it played in the Inspector’s decision was nevertheless an important one, which reflected the views of the vast majority of our residents. We believe that five windmills as high as Salisbury Cathedral – but in no way as attractive – would have been a veritable blot on the landscape, which would have ruined the outlook for all who look towards the hilltop of Brent Knoll.”
He continued: “We are delighted to have played a role in protecting the views of the Knoll, being such a prominent landmark, and one of the first important views so many tourists coming to the South West recognise after a long drive on the motorway. Any impairment of this view could have been detrimental to tourism in general and to this area in particular.”
“The cost of representation at the Public Inquiry on behalf of both Burnham and Highbridge Town Council and Brent Knoll Parish Council was shared equally between the two authorities, and we would like to thank Mr Tony Mason (from Ashfords Solicitors based in Taunton) for his hard work. As a local resident himself, Mr Mason took a deep interest in the merit of the case presented on our behalf.”
DISTRICT COUNCIL ‘PLEASED’ AT THE DECISION:
A statement from Sedgemoor District Council spokeswoman Claire Faun said: “We are pleased that the Planning Inspectorate agreed with the original decision of the Development Control Committee; it was the right development in the wrong location.”
“The scheme particularly detracted from the village of Brent Knoll and the Knoll itself and the Inspector rightly recognised this in his report.”
“Sedgemoor District Council supports the promotion of alternative forms of energy but these should be in appropriate locations where their impact is kept to a minimum.”
CELEBRATIONS AT ‘KNOLL TO WIND FARM’ GROUP:
Rob Vhora of the ‘Knoll To Wind Farm’ group, which has campaigned against the proposed the wind farm from the start, told Burnham-On-Sea.com he was ‘delighted’ by the verdict.
“It’s more relief than just delight. It’s wonderful to see that common sense has prevailed in the end! We’ve always said there is a place for wind farms, but this isn’t one. We put up a good fight and very relieved to win.”
THE CONCLUSIONS OF THE PLANNING INSPECTORATE:
Robin Brooks, Planning Inspector, said in his summing up on the case that: “I have taken account of what is said in guidance about giving significant weight to the wider environmental and economic benefits of renewable power proposals which may not be immediately evident to those most directly affected, and which have been stressed by FORCE and others supporting the proposal. I have also borne in mind the very real dangers that climate change itself could pose to the landscapes in which such proposals would be sited. However, national considerations are to a large extent the sum total of myriad local concerns, among them conservation of cherished landscapes, buildings and monuments; and action for the future must involves quality of life issues as well as utilitarian decisions. In this case I consider that the objections in terms of impact on the character of the local landscape and on the settings of St Michael’s Church and Brent Knoll Hill Fort are compelling, and that neither they, nor conflict with the development plan, are outweighed by other material considerations. My overall conclusion is that the appeal should be dismissed. I have considered all the other matters raised but none lead me to decide otherwise.”
15 January 2008
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