Major organisations have attacked plans by a leading green energy company to develop an onshore wind farm in North Yorkshire.
A planning application has been submitted by RWE npower renewables to Ryedale District Council and the scheme could see 10 turbines up to 400ft tall built near East Heslerton.
The wind farm could produce enough renewable electricity to meet the average annual needs of 9,700 homes. RWE has stressed that it has already undertaken environmental studies to establish the suitability of the proposed site.
The firm revealed a consultation culminated in a public exhibition attended by more than 200 people, 65 per cent of whom completed a comment form citing their support for the scheme.
But the company faces heavyweight opposition from the Ministry of Defence, English Heritage and Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). The MoD has claimed the turbines would cause “unacceptable interference” to a radar system at RAF Linton-on-Ouse.
In a letter to the council, the MoD said: “Trials carried out in 2005 concluded that wind turbines can have detrimental effects on the operation of radar which include the desensitisation of radar in the vicinity of the turbines and the creation of “false” aircraft returns.
“The probability of the radar detecting aircraft flying over or in the vicinity of the turbines would be reduced and the RAF would be unable to provide a full air surveillance service in the area of the proposed wind farm.”
English Heritage’s Inspector of Historic Buildings for the region, Dr Diane Green, also expressed concerns. She said: “The Vale of Pickering is significant for the diversity and continuity of its heritage assets. The Vale and its fringe of upland to the north and south contains an unparalleled collection of buried intact prehistoric and later landscapes and structures, standing earthworks and ruins, a distinctive landscape and extensive vernacular architecture.
“We consider the proposed wind farm would alter the way the landscape is experienced and read…the setting of numerous heritage assets would be harmed.”
But the CPRE’s criticism is the most damning. The Ryedale branch’s secretary, Janet Sanderson, said: “The developers could hardly have chosen a site with a more negative impact on the landscape if that had been their intention.
“The turbines will be visible from the top of Rosedale, from Ravenscar, from Flamborough Head, from a large area of the Wolds in the East Riding and from much of Ryedale and the south of Scarborough District.
“In my judgment the introduction of such strongly vertical features, breaking the horizon, with the attendant movement would be likely to reduce the enjoyment of the National Park experience.”
But RWE developer Martin Wood defended the plans, and claimed a “huge amount of work” has been undertaken to minimise the wind farm’s impact.
He said: “Meeting UK targets for renewable energy is a huge challenge, and onshore wind farms such as the one proposed at East Heslerton, are an important part of the ongoing effort to help tackle climate change. A huge amount of work has already gone into ensuring the design of East Heslerton Wind Farm has minimal environmental and social impacts, and that it is sympathetic to the surrounding area.
“This process required that we consult with a wide range of organisations including English Heritage and the Ministry of Defence, to understand and deal with any issues they may raise, ahead of finalising our proposals.
“We’ve since worked hard to take on board their comments in shaping the final planning application for the East Heslerton Wind Farm scheme, and are confident of resolving any subsequent issues they have raised in their respective submissions to Ryedale District Council.”
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