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Little Dunham: Ministers refuse sub station plan

Government ministers have upheld a decision to block a controversial plan for a huge electricity sub station at Little Dunham.

Warwick Energy wanted to build on 42 acres of arable fields to serve its proposed Dudgeon Offshore Windfarm, which would bring up to 168 turbines to a spot 20 miles north of the Cromer coast.

Local government minister Eric Pickles and minister for energy and climate Chris Huhne have upheld a planning inspector’s view that the planning permission refusal should be upheld.

Warwick Energy is now considering whether to challenge the latest decision, which it has described as “surprising and strange,” but the action group set up against the plan has said it is time for the firm to take heed.

The decision notice said: “The proposals would result in a significant change in the perception of the village which would be damaging to its hitherto rural ambience along with the intrinsic beauty of the landscape.”

The ministers stated there is a “possibility of locating an acceptable site elsewhere.”

The substation plan prompted a demonstration by more than 100 opposers in Little Dunham and the village of around 300 residents generated a petition of 1,500 names.

Planning officers at Breckland Council advised permission should be granted by the council’s development control committee went its own way and refused the plan.

A two-day inquiry, overseen by planning inspector Chris Frost, was held at Great Dunham Village Hall in June, after Warwick Energy challenged the refusal.

At the appeal it was revealed the final decision over the plan which had significant implications for the country’s renewable energy targets, had been taken out of the inspector’s hands and would rest with the Government ministers.

Little Dunham parish councillor and member of Little Dunham Action Group Paul Gardner said: “With two government ministers, the local authority and local people all saying the same thing, it is absolutely clear this isn’t an issue to do with renewable energy, they have chosen the wrong site and it is time to take heed.

“It is unfortunate that it took nearly two years to get that decision because it has put the lives of villagers on hold but the village will be delighted with the outcome.

“What they were proposing would have been two to three times the height of local houses and would have been totally inappropriate.

“The ministers ruled the national renewable energy need did not override the devastating affect on the local landscape.”

Project director for Dudgeon Offshore Wind Mark Petterson said: “We are disappointed and genuinely surprised.

“It is possible we might challenge the decision. We will now have to think long and hard about what to do next.

“The suggestion we should go to a different rural location is a strange one given they will have all the same concerns.”

Mr Petterson said the Little Dunham site had been selected from 100 possible sites.

He said even if the decision is overturned it will cause a year-long delay to the windfarm project.

He said the project, which has been in planning stages for eight years, would provide enough energy for every house in Norfolk, hundreds of jobs during the construction phase and ultimately employ 50 people.