Controversial plans to create a set of giant wind turbines have been given the go-ahead, it was revealed today.
Bosses at East Midlands Airport, near Castle Donington, have been told they can build four 135ft high turbines to harness the wind and produce environmentally-friendly energy.
They put the proposal to North West Leicestershire District Council and were waiting to see if they would be required to submit a formal planning application.
Now, however, officials have decided that will not be necessary and the scheme can go ahead without being approved by councillors.
Planning officers were looking to see if the airport needed to do an environmental impact assessment for the turbines and decided it was not needed.
The assessment would have focussed on the effects that the turbines may have had on nearby homes through noise and light flicker.
A council spokesman said: “It means the turbines can be built under the airport’s permitted development rights – no planning application is required.”
The decision has pleased the airport, but angered protesters who do not want the wind turbines built.
Graham Stocks, of the Leicestershire Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, said: “I think it’s incredible the airport does not need planning permission.
“Permitted development rights should not extend to a large and major development like this.
“Anyone else who wants to build a wind turbine would need planning permission for it, even if it’s much smaller than what the airport is proposing.
“More often than not it is the airport that objects to them on the grounds they can affect radar.
“Our view is that these turbines are not essential for the running of the airport so there must be caution on safety grounds.”
The airport maintains the turbines would present no risk to flights and that it consulted the Civil Aviation Authority and research companies in drawing up the plans. It says the turbines demonstrate its commitment to the environment and cutting its carbon footprint.
The turbines will generate 900kwh (kilowatt hours) of renewable energy, without any emissions to pollute the environment. They would cover about 10 per cent of the airport’s energy needs – enough to power 500 houses.
An airport spokeswoman said: “The council informed us on Thursday of its decision. We are pleased with it. We prepared an environmental-impact assessment anyway, but were told they did not need to see it.
“We will soon be announcing details of the next steps.
“The introduction of wind turbines is a step towards our commitment to making our ground operations carbon neutral by 2012.”
East Midlands Airport was the first airport in the UK to announce plans for wind turbines in September, but since then, in January, John Lennon Airport, in Liverpool, installed two 49ft structures.
Steve Charlish, head of airport noise protest group Demand, questioned the value of the turbines.
He said: “The effect of these turbines in reducing carbon emission will be miniscule in comparison to the tons of gasses emitted by the ever-increasing number of planes using the airport.
“I’m all for wind turbines, but in the right place.
“They should be off-shore where they cannot be seen.
“These will be visible from miles around and they will be an eyesore.
“I can’t believe such a controversial proposal will not be discussed by a planning committee and that, as usual, the airport is free to do what it likes.”
By Dan Martin
25 March 2008
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