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Wind farm blown away by appeal inspector  

Brent Knoll wind farm has rejected for the second time this week.

Planning inspector Robin Brooks said ‘no’ to controversial plans to build five wind turbines at a site off Stoddens Lane on Tuesday.

The decision was announced to delighted residents after months of anxious waiting, as the result was originally expected in November 2007.

The application by Next Generation, a subsidiary of renewable energy company Ecotricity, was originally refused by Sedgemoor District Council in August 2006. But in December that same year, Ecotricity revealed it was opposing the decision and a planning inquiry was held in August 2007.

When the news broke on Tuesday, the Weston & Somerset Mercury spoke to key people connected with the wind farm appeal to get their reaction.

* District councillor Bob Filmer, of Brent Street, said: “It is excellent news and a very very good result. It certainly means all the hard work was worthwhile. The decision Sedgemoor District Council took in the first place was obviously the right one.

“The efforts of the parish councils and kNOll to Wind Farm have finally paid off.

“It really was one of those situations when you don’t have any idea of what will happen but the inspector obviously agreed with our views.

“There was a long delay in the results and I think that only added to the concerns of residents.”

* Brent Knoll Parish Council chairman, Malcolm Borland, said: ñI am over the moon. Words cannot explain the elation. I live at Manor House overlooking The Knoll and when I look at the flooding there you can see why it was not suitable for a wind farm.

“This is a victory for the little people, combined with the efforts of Burnham and Highbridge Town Council and the parish council. kNOll to Wind Farm also did a marvellous job of presenting its case.

“Considering the result was expected in November, it could be the inspector was waiting for the results of the Hinkley Point decision before making an announcement.”

* Andrew Manning, spokesman for kNOll to Wind Farm protest group, said: ñI am tremendously pleased that good sense has prevailed. I think the hard work of everyone involved has paid off.

“There has been a huge amount of effort put in and this has been hanging over the heads of Brent Knoll residents for two years now, causing personal distress.”

* Resident John Page, who also made representations at the inquiry, said: “I am absolutely delight with the result. However, there are concerns that the appeals can be made by companies in their position which have major financial implications to local government and resident groups like kNOll to Wind Farm and I hope to raise this issue after I have carefully read the report.”

kNOll to Wind Farm member Rob Vohra said: “I have feelings of relief more than anything. I am glad the inspector saw it the way he did and common sense prevailed.”

* Councillor Neville Jones, deputy mayor for Burnham town said: “The relatively small part the town council played was nevertheless an important one, which reflected the views of the vast majority of our residents.

“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 many tourists coming to the South West recognise.”

* A Sedgemoor District Council spokesman said: “The council is pleased 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.”

* Former Brent Knoll Parish Council chairman Jean Owen said: “Isn’t it wonderful news? Everyone in the village is so excited. I cannot believe it, it is tremendous news.

“We need to keep our Knoll looking like our Knoll. The parish council objected on the grounds the proposals would have on the village and the impact on the church and the inspector agreed.”

* Ecotricity managing director Dale Vince said: “Naturally we are very disappointed. How are we ever going to fight climate change if we cannot 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 per cent by 2020. If the Government does not 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 is a ridiculous situation.”

In his report, Robin Brooks said there were four main issues in the appeal:

1. The contribution the proposal would make to achieving regional and national targets for renewable energy generation, bearing in mind national planning policy.

2. The impact on the character and appearance of the surrounding landscape including Brent Knoll, the eponymous village and its settings.

3. The effects on the living conditions of residents, particularly in terms of possible visual intrusion, noise and shadow flicker.

4. The effects on the settings of local listed buildings, notably St Michael’s Church in Brent Knoll and the scheduled ancient monument, Brent Knoll Hill Fort.

In a summary of the appeal, Mr Brooks said: “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 hey, 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.

“I dismiss this appeal.”

Weston & Somerset Mercury

17 January 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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