Fenland looks set to enhance its reputation as the wind turbine capital of Cambridgeshire- if not East Anglia- as councillors prepare to approve eight further turbines.
Despite opposition from March Town Council and Christchurch Parish Council, a further seven turbines are expected to win approval next week for the Co-op owned Coldham Estates to join nine turbines already in existence there.
Relying on interim findings of a recently commissioned report, officers will tell the district council planning committee that Fenland’s landscape can comfortably absorb more wind turbines.
“The Fens landscape character area is of moderate quality,” says planning officer Stephanie Thompson.
“This means that some of the elements of the landscape should be conserved (e.g. its openness, rectilinear pattern and linear features) but that other features should be improved (e.g. the lack of landmarks/focal points and the biodiversity of the landscape.
“This proposal could be seen to have a negligible impact on the quality of the landscape character as a whole.”
She believes extra turbines at Coldham would emphasise the characteristics of the area and act as landmarks and features.
Ms Thompson will tell councillors that the interim findings of the recent study has identified the Fens landscape area as having “low sensitivity to most types of wind turbine development, particularly single to small medium scale groups, 1 to 7-12 turbines.
“This means that the landscape can accommodate some turbine development “without a significant impact on its character or the key characteristics being adversely affected. Large groups can be accommodated but attention needs to be paid to other factors such as design, siting and cumulative impact.”
In twin reports to councillors (her second report supports a single turbine for a 60 metre turbine in Creek Road, March, for Anglian Water), Ms Thompson says the turbines will bring “benefits to the wider community in terms of the contribution to renewable energy and economy.”
Her report on Coldham dismisses fears of the turbines affecting household appliances such as television, radio and microwaves although she concedes domestic TV could be noted “however it should be noted that this is a declining service. OFCOM notes that in the Anglia TV region, 80 per cent of homes have converted to digital TV therefore only around 20 per cent of local residents may be susceptible to interference.
“However mitigation is readily available and can be dealt with via a planning condition. In any event such interference would not occur after the switch over to digital transmission by 2021.”
March Town Council felt the proposal should be stalled until the council’s policy on wind turbines was finalised, although Ms Thompson said this was not possible. Government guidelines insisted a decision must be taken within normal planning time frame and “refusing on the grounds of prematurity is not acceptable unless for justified reasons.”
Christchurch Parish Council thought the extra turbines would have an unacceptable impact, but Elm Parish Council disagreed and recommended approval.
Ms Thompson said noise levels were acceptable although two homes near to the turbines had a small chance of disturbance but she felt this could be controlled.
The extension to the Coldham wind farm will take seven months to construct and access will be via the existing farm entrance off the B1101 between Coldham and March.
By John Elworthy
4 March 2008
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