A wind farm of 328 ft high turbines has been approved next to Thorne Moor in Yorkshire, a reserve protected under EU law which conservationists campaigned for 20 years to save from peat diggers.
The moor was eventually bought for the nation for £19 million by English Nature, the forerunner of Natural England, the Government’s own conservation advisers, which now owns it and opposed the wind farm.
However, neither the opposition of Natural England, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds or that of a coalition of local groups including the Campaign to Protect Rural England has been enough to prevent 22 large-scale turbines being sited within 200 metres of the protected lowland bog.
The flat moor near Goole is protected under European law both as a special protection areas for birds such as the nightjar and as a special conservation area for its plants and insects. Campaigners spent 20 years trying to persuade the Government to buy out peat digging consents owned by first Fisons and then Scotts.
The decision of John Hutton, the Business Secretary, to approve the windfarm was based on the conclusion of a public inquiry Keith Smith, who concluded: “I find no convincing case for refusal of consent on grounds of landscape or visual impact, including cumulative impact.”
Andy Tickle, planning manager for the CPRE in South Yorkshire, said: “We’re very disappointed. This wind farm will be 200 metres away and the impact on the setting and context of a unique landscape in England are unacceptable.”
Protesters made the case that the farm was a very similar case to one proposed between the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks on the M6, which was refused.
Under the arcane rules which affect energy schemes, a senior official was asked to make an “appropriate assessment” on whether the scheme compromised the ecological factors of the area, based on evidence from Natural England, which opposed the scheme.
The official decided to approve. The secretary of state’s decision letter is based on this and the inquiry inspector’s finding.
Dr Tickle added: “When we look at landscapes there is a lot said about natural beauty.
“I wonder whether the inspector in this case saw this as a lowland expanse of dark brown peat and failed to see it in natural beauty terms. He simply didn’t appreciate that that kind of lowland landscape needed protection.”
By Charles Clover
28 February 2008
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