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Opening shots fired in Pulham airfield turbine inquiry

A turbine company called on a Norfolk council to “pull its weight” to meet renewable energy targets at the start of a wind farm public inquiry.

The opening shots were fired at a hearing today to discuss proposals for three large masts at a former airfield in south Norfolk, which were unanimously rejected by district councillors last year.

Energy firm TCI Renewables described South Norfolk Council’s record on onshore turbine schemes as “abysmal” as it began its appeal against the local authority’s planning decision at Upper Vaunces Farm between Rushall, Dickleburgh, Pulham Market and Pulham St Mary.

Representatives for the district council and the 4Villages opposition group argued that the three 126m-high “industrial” turbines would pose an “overbearing” impact on local residents and harm the rural landscape.

The three masts, which the applicants say would provide renewable power to about 3,500 homes, were rejected by South Norfolk Councillors in December, which received 400 letters of objection and 40 letters of support.

But David Hardy, speaking for the Oxford-based turbine company, said the region needed 500 new commercial turbines to meet government renewable energy targets and the former Pulham airfield was an “excellent” site. He added that the agricultural land was not overly environmentally sensitive to wind farm development.

“The district has an abysmal record for encouraging and granting planning permission on onshore wind farms. It is not pulling its weight. The proposed development would result in change to the local landscape and this would involve change to the local character and composition of a number of views, but change in itself is not unacceptable,” he said.

Asitha Ranatunga, for South Norfolk Council, said officers had struck the right balance between the need for more renewable energy and the impact on the area. He added that the council had only considered two other large turbine schemes in the last five years.

“The visual impacts of the appeal scheme will result in demonstrable harm to the local landscape, and a number of significant and overbearing effects on nearby residential properties with the result that they will be unattractive places to live,” he said.

Jonathan Clay, for 4Villages, added that the turbine company had failed to assess the impact on local residents and historic buildings like the Grade I listed church at Rushall.

“The impact on the local community and quality of life would be massive and devastating. It strikes at the very heart of their reason to come here. For the first time in 500 years, the church tower at Rushall will not be the most prominent feature on the landscape and will be dwarfed by these giant industrial structures,” he said.

The inquiry is set to last six days.