Villagers celebrate government ministers’ decision to reject plans for sub station at Little Dunham, near Swaffham
Campaigners are celebrating tonight after two government ministers rejected plans for a large electricity sub-station in Mid Norfolk.
But the energy company behind the project warned the decision could jeopardise the future of the £1.3bn Dudgeon offshore wind farm.
Warwick Energy wants to build the installation on 43 acres of farmland at Little Dunham, near Swaffham, to connect to the National Grid.
Against the advice of its officers, Breckland Council rejected the plans after hearing villagers’ fears about the impact that the 15m-high buildings could have on the landscape.
Warwick appealed and a planning inquiry was held earlier this year.
Planning inspector Christopher Frost but the final decision was made by energy secretary Chris Huhne and communities secretary Eric Pickles.
On Wednesday their ruling was published and they have dismissed the appeal and refused planning permission.
Warwick have six weeks to decide whether to appeal to the High Court and lost an application for costs against Breckland.
Paul Gardner, from the Little Dunham Action Group, said: “The village is going to be delighted. It is the right decision for the village and will protect the area for future generations. We said from the outset that this was the wrong site for such a project.”
He added that residents in the small community have lived the threat of the sub station for two years, which has caused “anguish” and “frustration”.
Breckland councillor for the area Mark Kiddle-Morris, said: “I’m absolutely over the moon for the people of Little Dunham. They have worked hard to fight this all the way through. The impact of such a project was felt to be so great on the countryside around Little Dunham, and the industrialisation of a field so close to a residential area outweighed the requirements of national policy for renewable energy.
“In the past we have not been able to say it was in the wrong place and refuse it on that basis but the Secretaries of State said it was probably in the wrong place.”
But Mark Petterson, project director for Warwick Energy, said he was “very surprised” at the decision.
He added: “With a refusal I don’t think we’ll recover the costs, which is disappointing, but that is the least of our concerns. The Dudgeon offshore wind farm project will be subject to a year’s delay because of this, whatever route we take.”
He said the outcome could “potentially jeopardise” the £1.3bn scheme.
The energy company looked at more than 100 possible sites for the industrial structure and shortlisted five across the county.
“If some people think you cannot build a sub station on rural land it cannot be built – this is Norfolk,” Mr Petterson added.
He said he was unsure if Warwick Energy will take the case to High Court.
George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, said: “This is a great victory for the whole of our community, from the Council who initially rejected the proposals, to the dedicated campaigning of the Little Dunham Parish Council Group. I am happy that the Departments of Energy and Climate Change and Communities and Local Government have come to this decision and taken the advice of our local residents.
“As I have also said myself, the Secretaries of State have stated in their report that a substation is required and vital to the utilisation and distribution of off-shore wind energy and that an alternative site ought to be assessed, nevertheless the highlighting of the significant change to the perception of Little Dunham village meant that planning permission couldn’t be justified on this site.
“This shows just what can be done when communities, councils and MPs work together, and gives me confidence in the increased powers for local communities proposed in the Government’s Localism Bill. In the case of Little Dunham, the location for the substation was simply inappropriate.”
To see the full appeal decision visit the website: www.communities.gov.uk/planningandbuilding/decisionsplanning/secretarystate/recentsecretary.
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