When I started to hear about the scale and the potential impact of the Bank’s proposal to install industrial wind turbines on Went Edge, like many I was startled. I know that there is a huge concern expressed about global warming and our future energy needs and that all the political parties have emerging views about the need to come up with viable alternative energy sources.
The more that I learned however, the more concerned I became that the people on the eastern side of the district were to be sacrificed for a tick in a government box and a bit of global posturing.
When you look at the implications of the Bank’s proposal there are a number of major reasons that under normal circumstances would rule out such a development. However over recent years our Labour Government has set out to erode the planning laws and guidance so that “things get done”.
In fact as I understand it Ministers only last week signed an order at council (Queens Council/Ministerial edict) which allows the latest big idea of Eco towns or Growth Points (urban extension as WMDC describe them) to utilize green belt so that the governments big new project of 3,000,000 new houses by 2020 gets delivered.
What is the linkage? Whether it is multiple industrial wind turbines over 425 feet high or 20,000 new houses they could arrive on a piece of green belt near you.
Peter Box, Leader of the Council has come out against Darringfield but has agreed to a Government scheme of Growth Points with target building up to 1900 new houses a year up until 2020, which will deliver more houses than Darringfield again predominantly in the Five Towns area and in reality this will take green belt or precious open spaces, will we have the infrastructure improvements? Well I am really not sure..
Whether it is industrial scale wind farms or massive housing developments it looks as if this Government is set to get its way in this part of the world because they can, unless we demand consultation and fight these tractor factory style targets.
Our local MP’ has gone on record about the need to meet the global challenge and quotes the Stern review as a compelling reason, she supports Government policy based on a report by an economist. I would feel more comfortable if Sir Nicholas was a scientist.
She was also the minister sponsoring Eco-Towns and the Growth Points programme that Wakefield is keen to support. One would hope that a constituency MP would support the needs of her people, but it seems to me that career and government programmes have a higher call on her and therefore apart from telling us that we will be consulted she gives no comfort when government inspectors overturn local democratic decisions and processes.
At this point people may feel that I am being political, biased and defeatist.
Well I have a clear view on what I think is going on. Defeatist no, we have to fight the Bank’s proposal and keep fighting until this flawed thinking runs out of steam.
At a local level we need the political will to stop sacrificing our communities to government dictat. Whilst we have a local consensus about the Wind Farm, I am getting very mixed messages from our Labour controlled council and our MP about their position.
With regard to council we will only be sure of a result when we know that they are not block voting to support a government initiative, the electorate can alter the WMDC block vote and send clear messages on May the 1st by seeing ruling group heads roll.
At a parliamentary level we have had a Labour MP since 1935, if ever there was time for a change it seems to me that the next general election will give us a chance to look at electing a local candidate who has neither the distractions of a joint ministerial careers or the complication or of where the heart is.
My final comments are we need to stand and fight the current application and that people need to register their objections to this damaging and speculative development.
For the record my objection filed with WMDC planners for the Banks development is as follows.
Application Number: 07/01338/FUL
Address: Westfield Lane (Land Off)
Erection of 6 wind turbines, highway access, junction improvement and ancillary development.
Name: Cllr G M Walsh – District Councillor Pontefract South
Customer objects to the Planning Application.
Based on studying the elements of this application and others of its type and having received representations from other elected members and members of parish councils and residents of Pontefract, East Hardwick, Darrington, Carleton, Wentbridge, Ackworth, Badsworth, Knottingley, Ferrybridge and Selby District, I wish to formally object to this application and ask that you put the following points forward to the planning committee for their consideration:
1. That application concerned is an inappropriate development in line with PPG2 Para 3.2 and 3.12 and as such this proposed development will be by definition a development on green belt that is harmful to the green belt, it further conflicts with local planning guidelines.
2. Visual Amenity: In PPG2 Para 3.15 it is stated that the visual amenities of the green belt should not be injured by proposals for development within or conspicuous from the Green Belt which might be visually detrimental by reason of their siteing, materials or design. At 125 metres in height it will not be possible to mask these six industrial wind generators from view and they will be visible from a distance and from several local locations including the West Park Residences and are therefore impermissible.
3. Archaeological impact.
I am advised by the past Chairman of the Council for British Archaeology (Yorkshire) that “the land has a number of archaeological sites beneath it, probably of Iron Age and Romano British Date. Building works of any kind will destroy these.” This proposed application is likely to result in unacceptable damage to the Archaeological environment.
PPG 16 Section A 3. States Archaeological remains are irreplaceable. Further in section A 8. The guidance calls for planning authorities where nationally important remains whether scheduled or not, and their settings are affected by proposed development there should be a presumption in favour of their physical preservation.
The plateau has a significant number of finds and there are additional features still to be explored, some within 50 metres of this proposed application site and it should be remembered that further along the contour line of this edge of the hills as part of the A1M improvements an iron age chariot was discovered. As such on the grounds of preserving the important archaeology of the area this application should be rejected.
4.The villages of Wentbridge and Darrington and the smaller community of West Park already live with significant background noise caused by the flow of traffic on the A1/A1M which runs alongside the proposed location these generators will add further low frequency sound to the noise spectrum adding wind related low frequency and strobe effects which will have a particular impact on residents sleep patterns as other noises drop away through the night.
The group that provided the current DTI guidance on noise nuisance in 1997 have confirmed that the original guidance was based on typically smaller industrial wind generators than those selected for this proposal and the council therefore has a duty of care to confirm that the health and well-being of residents will not be damaged by this installation. If that cannot be done then this application should be deferred or rejected until such time as that may be possible.
5.The location adjacent to the A1 would also offer significant road safety risk particularly by the distraction of motorists through a section of the A1 with several exits and access points where driver concentration is critical. This linked to Bank’s own comment about strobing effect and shadow flicker will create a significant danger especially on bright sunny days or at sunset and dusk.
6. In the UDP Volume 1 OL20 the WMDC policy on renewable energy states that “Proposals for the development of renewable energy sources will be permitted where it can be demonstrated that effects on:
i) The Local Community
ii) The Landscape of the area
iii) The Ecology of the area
iv) Existing and proposed land uses in the locality
It is clear from the amount of concern raised in local communities across the district and the number of individual objections raised by local residents that this application does not meet point i) of OL20
The application if approved will contravene national legislation listed 1 & 2 above and as such the loss of amenity and damage to the views across the green belt mean that the application does not meet point ii) of OL20.
The review of the ecology of the area does not have sufficient time spread to take account of the seasons and the ecology of the area and therefore point iii) of OL20 cannot be tested, as such the application should be deferred or rejected subject to a more detailed and extensive ecological review.
Finally on OL20 the application adversely effects existing and proposed land uses in the area in its impact on existing public footpaths and other rights of way, walks and the rides on Went Edge from the Equestrian Centre at Westfields’ West Field Lane, Darrington, WF8 3AQ, the proposed future alteration to the path of the A1M by the Highways Agency and the Eco-Towns proposal of Darringfield and therefore does not meet the test of point iv) of OL20.
Note OL20 remains listed in the Secretary of States direction of September 2007 is valid and should be given sufficient weight to reject when considering this application.
7. PPS 22 Principle 1.iv States that the wider environmental and economic benefits of all proposals for renewable energy projects whatever their scale are material considerations that should be given significant weight in determining whether proposals should be granted planning permission.
Even taking account of that principle, there is insufficient environmental and economic benefit or national benefit provided by this particular application to set aside OL20 and that whilst taking account of PPS22 this application does not meet the vigorous tests mentioned in that document and should be rejected accordingly.
These are my initial points of objection and should give sufficient grounds for rejection, please note however that I propose to put additional specific points forward for the consideration of the planning committee.
District Councillor – Pontefract South Ward 13
Deputy Leader – Conservative Group WMDC
If you have not already registered your concerns about this proposal with WMDC planning department or our MP, please do so as soon as you can.
Posted by Geoff Walsh
17 February 2008
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