The company behind plans for a wind farm near Tallentire has been accused of cynical opportunism for lodging a planning appeal after last year’s floods delayed consideration of its application.
Ian McCambridge, of Tallentire Area Action Group, addressing an inquiry into Renewable Energy Solutions’ plans for six 328ft turbines at Tallentire Hill, said: “They must have been aware that Allerdale officers were dealing with floods, bridges down and a lot of people’s businesses.
“It seems to local people, who got extremely angry, that the non-determination very quickly gone to by Renewable Energy Solutions was cynical opportunism.”
He added that the company, which submitted its plans in February 2008, only provided supplementary information requested by the council this spring.
It lodged its appeal in July 2010, two months before Allerdale council’s development panel refused the plans because of the cumulative effect on the landscape and concerns over noise.
Mr McCambridge and Gilcrux resident Craig Baker told the second day of the inquiry on Wednesday that the wind farm would spoil views from as far away as Aspatria.
They said it would alter for a generation a hill which boasted breathtaking views of Skiddaw and the Lake District to one side and the Solway Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Scotland, the Isle of Man and Northern Island to the other.
Mr Baker said: “We believe in climate change and doing something about it, but we believe the 12KW wind farm outlined by the developer would be outweighed by the harm. These structures are alien in terms of the local landscape.
“The developer says attempting to limit the visibility of a wind farm on this landscape is not a viable option. We totally agree.”
Mr McCambridge added: “People who live there feel this development would make large areas of both villages unpleasant areas to live.”
He said there were more than 160 homes within 0.62 miles of the site, with a 0.93-mile area encompassing both villages and about 1,000 residents.
Among residents’ key concerns are a likely loss of tourists, a drop in house prices, shadow flicker, caused by turbine blades passing between the sun and homes, and the effect on bats which, Mr Baker said, are known to roost in places such as Gilcrux village hall and feed in hedgerows near the site.
Patrick Robinson, for the firm, said the 2009 UK Renewable Energy Strategy suggested that 30 per cent of UK’s energy could be renewable by 2020.
Each region would be expected to bear an increase, with on-shore wind identified as the most viable option.
But Allerdale council’s planning consultant Bob Taylor said the development’s impact on the landscape must be considered.
Referring to past inquiries, he added: “Previous inspectors have noted that Allerdale’s landscape is becoming a landscape of wind farms.”
David Stewart, planning consultant for RES, said: “National targets can only be reached through an accumulation of developments in the regions. The judgement in terms of effects on residential amenity is they are within suitable limits.”
He said that shadow flicker would only affect a handful of homes at limited times of day during only some parts of the year.
Changes in rotor speeds in recent years had removed the chance for flicker to cause epileptic seizures but RES was happy for a planning condition to be applied relating to flicker, he added.
He said property prices were not a planning concern.
Commenting on a report by Dr Amanda Harry into suggested health problems which would be caused by turbines, which was put forward by Bridekirk resident Roy Stenson, Mr Stewart yesterday said problems such as sleeplessness, sickness and nausea had been attributed to the wind farm without evidence while wind farm developments had only generated a handful of complaints about health.
Landscape architect Colin Goodrum, for RES, said the development would be dominant up to 0.62 miles away, with the significant visual impact only reaching for about 2.5 miles – less than suggested by Allerdale council.
He said: “We have wind farms in a similar landscape. We have heard phrases about the landscape being saturated or at tipping point and I’d not describe it as being anywhere near that.
“I judge that the Tallentire wind farm can be accommodated satisfactorily. None of the affects are in my opinion unacceptable.”
On the opening day of the inquiry on Tuesday, senior landscape planner Paul Macrae, for Allerdale council, said the wind farm would significantly affect the landscape and three-turbines might be more appropriate.
The inquiry is due to finish on Wednesday, with nearly 20 due to give evidence on Tuesday. Workington MP Tony Cunningham is due to speak today.
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