Breckland councillors this week refused planning permission for six more wind turbines in the Swaffham area after hearing they could compromise national security.
Last month, planning officers had recommended that permission be granted for Next Generation’s plan to put up the turbines of similar size to the Swaffham II turbine on an open farmland site between the A1065 Castleacre Road and Sporle Road in Swaffham and Sporle.
Despite a Ministry of Defence objection, they pointed out that features on the landscape, buildings and even trees could mitigate the effect of wind turbines on radar, so it did not necessarily follow that turbines would have a negative effect.
But on December 17, councillors deferred making a final decision on the project to allow more investigation of the MoD warnings. And after a detailed objection was received from Defence Estates, the officers did a U-turn in a report to Monday’s development control committee meeting.
They said: “While there is an acknowledged need to secure suitable sites for renewable energy sources, in the light of the detailed objection from Defence Estate relating to the impact of the proposal upon air traffic control radar and air traffic management procedures at RAF Marham, the application is recommended for refusal.”
Next Generation said the six turbines would be 256ft high and have blade diameters of 269ft. They would be of a direct drive type, which needs no gearbox, and between them would produce 12 megawatts of electricity – enough to power up to 9,500 homes.
It said the turbines would save the emission of up to 31,474 tonnes of carbon dioxide and meet seven per cent of the capacity needed in Norfolk by 2010.
But Defence Estates claimed the turbines would have “an unacceptable impact” on air traffic control radar and air traffic management at RAF Marham, and backed this up with a comprehensive technical appraisal, the officers’ report said.
Next Generation asked for conditions to be imposed to overcome these concerns, but Defence Estates said these would be “unreasonable and as such, unenforceable”.
Five of the turbines fall within Swaffham and the other in Sporle and the town and parish councils had objected to the plan because of noise, flicker and other issues, including the potential for further similar applications in the area.
Norfolk County Council had also raised a strategic objection claiming the proposal would have a significant impact on the landscape.
By Mike Last
18 January 2008
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