A 200-feet-high test mast planned for the site of the proposed wind farm close to Bank Newton has been deferred – after councillors got into a tangle.
EnergieKontor wants to put up the meteorological mast at Brightenber Hill for up to three years to take readings from the site. But councillors failed to reach a decision and now plan a site visit before their next meeting in April.
An agent for the German- owned company told Monday’s meeting of Craven District Council’s Planning Committee that the mast was needed to determine the type of turbines and their future maintenance.
But councillors argued that the test mast could not be dealt with as a separate issue from the proposed wind farm – even though an application for the farm was yet to be received and not expected before the second half of the year.
It was also pointed out that the test mast was premature as it would not be needed if permission for the wind farm was turned down.
Christopher Emmett, on behalf of the Friends of Craven Landscape and Bank Newton Parish Meeting, said the galvanised metal mast held up with guy ropes would have a “significant impact” on the surrounding countryside. He said there had not been enough public consultation and there was not enough time for the test mast to take its readings if the wind turbines were to be installed some time next year.
But Conrad Atkinson, project manager for EnergieKontor, said brochures had been delivered to more than 175 households and 220 organisations. He added that the application was not for a wind farm and should be assessed on its own merits and limited impact on the area.
Coun David Crawford argued that the application was unlawful because the parish of Coniston Cold had not been consulted.
Coun Mark Wheeler said it was difficult to separate the two applications, but he could see no reason why the temporary mast should not be approved.
“If we don’t approve the wind farm, the chances are that there will not be a need for the mast,” he said.
Coun Chris Knowles-Fitton added: “This is a perfect example of putting the cart before the horse. The two things are intrinsically linked.”
Coun Knowles-Fitton said a decision should be deferred and dealt with at the same time as the application for the wind farm, or approved with the condition that the wind farm was also approved.
“I can see no justification for it otherwise,” he said.
Councillors were told they were under an obligation to deal with the application on its own merits and separate from any future plan for the site.
But when it came to a vote, matters became complicated.
Members voted 5-5 on a recommendation that the application be refused despite it having been recommended for approval by officials. Then they voted on the planning officers’ recommendation itself, and the result was five for with six against.
Sian Watson, the council’s head of planning and building control, told the committee it was a “unique” situation.
“The members have not refused and not approved. They have not determined the application in one way or another,” she said.
Mrs Watson said EnergieKontor could now appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against non-determination and suggested a way forward would be for the committee to hold a site visit.
She added that EnergieKontor could not appeal until after the application target date of April 2 and if the council had not come to a decision by then, it would be reported as a “deemed refusal”.
14 March 2008
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