Planners have recommended refusal for controversial proposals to install wind turbines on the Berkshire downs.
The plans, submitted by the Sheepdrove Wind Energy Project following years of consultation with the local community, independent experts and statutory bodies, involve one farmhouse turbine which would be 17.75m in height at the rotor tip and one main turbine of 39.5m at the tip, both at Sheepdrove Organic Farm.
The farm covers 1850 acres of chalk grassland and arable farmland on the Berkshire downs near Lambourn
The matter will be decided at a meeting of West Berkshire Council’s western area planning committee on Wednesday, June 15 and a planning officer’s report notes that there have been 81 letters of objection plus 221 signatories to petitions opposing the turbines.
Critics fear granting the application in an Area of Outstansding Natural Beauty (AONB) would set a precedent for such turbines in West Berkshire beauty spots; that it would be an eyesore and that it would damage wildlife and tourism.
Other opponents who registered their objection and are listed in the report include Lambourn parish council, the Ramblers’ Association, English Heritage, the Council for the
Protection of Rural England, North Wessex Downs AONB and Natural England.
There have, however, been four letters of support for the application.
The report notes that the council’s landscape consultant concluded that to permit the main turbine would do “severe harm” to the landscape of the AONB, particularly in open downland.
It notes, in favour of the application, the need to encourage renewable energy wherever possible; the fact that there are no highway, ecological or noise reasons to reject the application and the fact that there are no planning reasons to reject the proposal on grounds of equine safety, ”notwithstanding the proximity of the Lambourn race horse industry.”
However, the report adds: “It is of paramount importance to conserve the original reason for the designation of this national designation (AONB), without compromising it.”
It goes on to recommend that “the head of planning and countryside be authorised to refuse the application” because the main turbine, by reason of its height and location, plus overall bulk and rotating blades, would “create a form of development which will be wholly unacceptable in this rural location, given the fact that it will be highly visible from many surrounding locations within the AONB and beyond.”
The final decision will rest with the committee.
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