A planning inspector heard strong arguments for and against plans for the Dales’ first wind farm, on the final day of a public inquiry.
Carsington Wind Energy were appealing Derbyshire Dales District Council’s decision to refuse its application to build four 100-metre-tall turbines at Carsington Pastures.
The eight-day public inquiry finished on Friday at Matlock Town Hall, with government planning inspector Robin Brooks hearing closing submissions from all the key parties.
Janice Southway, from Protect Carsington and Hopton Action Group, said the group had collected 1,481 signatures, 770 letters and 56 emails against the proposals during a seven-week campaign.
She said the wind farm would have a harmful impact on tourism, heritage, noise, wildlife and the landscape.
Ms Southway criticised West Coast Energy’s consultation process. She said one complainant was told by a West Coast Energy employee to send his objections to Mickey Mouse during a telephone call.
Anthony Crean QC, for Derbyshire Dales District Council, led a scathing attack on Carsington Wind Energy’s plans.
And Mr Crean described the material the company had presented to the public as “wrong, inadequate and misleading.”
Mr Crean claimed West Coast Energy’s environmental statement was “largely flawed”, “invalid in law”, and “massively exaggerates benefits”. He said this alone was grounds for the inspector to refuse the appeal.
District council-appointed experts were worried about the impact on wildlife and the British Horse Society had safety fears, he said.
Mr Crean said: “Horses are easily spooked. The sudden appearance of the windmills and the shadows they form may lead to horses to throw riders.”
But the district council’s main complaints concerned the potential environmental it thought the wind farm would cause.
Mr Crean said: “The application fails on the central balance of benefit against harm. The benefit is trivial. The harm is massive.”
Jeremy Pike QC, for Carsington Wind Energy, said the district council’s argument was based on the principle that if something could be seen, it was automatically harmful.
Mr Pike said: “If this proposal is turned down on those views, no wind farm application can ever be deemed as being acceptable,” he said.
He admitted the turbines would be visible from the national park, but said they were unlikely to affect tourism.
Mr Pike said: “The special qualities of the national park will not be harmed. There are clear differences between the landscape at the site and within the park.”
Mr Pike said the company’s own experts had dismissed fears over the potential negative impact on birds, bats and wildlife.
He said the council’s evidence on the horse issue was “tenuous and lacking”, and the company had fulfilled its legal consultation requirements.
No date was set for the release of the planning inspector’s final decision.
11 July 2008
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