Controversial plans for a wind monitoring mast at Mealsgate, near Wigton, were approved yesterday amid claims that councillors’ hands were tied by unworkable planning laws.
Allerdale Council’s development panel wanted to refuse Your Energy’s plans for a 230ft test mast at Little Waver, accepting that they were the likely precursor of a windfarm.
But members said they had no choice but to vote in favour of the plans because refusal was likely to be overturned by the planning inspector – a decision which could cost the region’s taxpayers.
Councillor Jim Lister, who abstained from the vote, said: “I can’t vote for it because I know the people of Allerdale don’t want it and I can’t vote against it because it is going to cost the people of Allerdale.
“We are doing everything we can to stop these windfarms but every time we vote against them they get thrown out on appeal which is costing money.
“Despite our sympathies we have got we are in the position of wondering if we can afford to turn them down.”
Speaker Marion Fitzgerald said: “Surely you cannot accept a situation where a temporary structure can never be refused.
“If that’s the case then all of your positions count for nothing and you should consider suing the Government for allowing planning policy that is unworkable.”
The mast proposal has seen 49 letters of objection, a petition with more than 150 signatures and the formation of an opposition group called Boltons FORCE, members of which attended the meeting.
Residents fear the mast will be the precursor to eight 360ft wind turbines built close to the village.
The site is also near the existing three-turbine High Pow wind farm, near Bolton Low Houses, which is also seeking to double its turbines.
Protestors have branded the plans unnecessary because there is another test mast at High Pow less than a mile from the proposed site.
Speaker Mary Walsh, whose fence is on the boundary of the proposed mast site, said: “Agreeing to the erection of this mast would be comparable to allowing a surgeon to make the first incision for an operation that was unwanted and unnecessary.”
Richard Mardon, managing director of Your Energy, said: “This is not an application for a windfarm but a temporary slender structure in place for two years.”
Mr Mardon added that the mast was important to help the company collect accurate data, although he admitted that he already had an idea that a windfarm was feasible based on data from similar developments nearby.
But speaking after the meeting Elli Logan, of Wigton, said: “If you discuss masts without discussing turbines it is an artificial discussion.
“We have been told we are not supposed to talk about turbines because it is a planning application for a mast even though we know it is a precursor for a wind turbine application.”
Boltons FORCE has vowed to continue the fight.
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