September 23, 2010

Blow for wind farm protestors

Pocklington Post, 23 September 2010

Battling villagers could be dealt a bitter blow today as plans for a controversial wind farm looks set to be given the go-ahead.

The application to build five huge turbines on land near to Sancton has been recommended for approval, once a number of issues have been ironed out during a planning meeting today.

The news has not been welcomed by campaigners in the village near Market Weighton who have been fighting to bring a halt to the scheme for over two years.

Applicant, Cornwall Light and Power (CLP), had their initial plans rejected in March 2009, but the blueprints have since been re-submitted, which they have tweaked in a bid to address the reasons for their previous failure.

And the planning officer has hinted that the issues, which included largely the visual impact, conservation problems and aviation concerns, have now been considered.

A nearby six-turbine wind farm planned at Sober Hill in North Newbald, which was given planning permission in March this year, will also be taken into account.

The planning report for Sancton, which will be discussed at County Hall, reads: “It is considered that the application would accord with national and development plan policy relating to the provision of renewable energy through the development of wind farms, and that it would make a valuable contribution towards meeting the national need for renewable energy as established in Government policy.

“It is accepted that the landscape is relatively sensitive to wind farm development at an overall scale, but it is considered that the host landscape is sufficiently robust to accommodate the proposed development.”

If built, the turbines will stand at 328 feet each and reportedly generate enough electricity to power thousands of homes.

The Post exclusively revealed the original plans in July 2008, and opposition from locals quickly escalated. An action group – Sancton Wind farm Action Team (SWAT) – was formed and demanded answers from CLP about how it would affect their quality of life, property prices and the visual impact of the location.

They secured a victory when East Riding Council rejected the application, but they now warn that other rural settings could now be targeted by wind farm companies thanks to the Government’s hopes of harnessing more renewable energy.

Sancton resident Tony Williams feels that the Sober Hill approval could open the floodgates, and could be a major factor in Sancton’s wind farm being given the green light.

He said: “Both proposals were turned down by ERYC early in 2009, but only the Sober Hill developers went to appeal and got the decision overturned – not surprising, really, given Central Government’s stance on wind turbines.

“Unfortunately, the inspector who heard

the appeal took the view that there was no good reason why the Sober Hill project should not go ahead, and that has undoubtedly encouraged the Sancton Hill developers to resurrect their application.

“In fact, in their submission they make that very clear – they suggest that because Sober Hill has been agreed, there can be no objection to CLP’s application.

“Work on installing those turbines has recently started, so if CLP’s current application is also approved, the eastern edge of Sancton will be ringed by 11 turbines and the Wolds landscape will be spoilt forever.

“There are already more than enough turbines in this part of Yorkshire – indeed, we understand that the East Riding already has more than the quota set for it by Central Government.”

Mr Williams says that CLP had even made a substantial financial offer to the village in a bid to soften the blow- a one-off cash payment of £115,000 followed by annual payments of £35,000 for 25 years.

However, he said that such is the feeling against the wind farm that the village rejected the payment after a public vote- a move he hopes will strengthen their case today.

“When CLP made their first application in late 2008, a meeting of the whole village, by an overwhelming majority, gave the parish council a clear mandate to object to the proposals,” he added.

“CLP’s financial offer was substantial, and at least two much-needed village projects could have benefited considerably.

“However, the reasons why the village objected to the wind turbines would still be valid. We hope the planning committee will take Sancton’s financial sacrifice into account when considering the current application.

“It is of great concern to the residents of Sancton, who are most unhappy at the prospect of our eastern boundary being framed by a phalanx of turbines.”

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