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Wind farm refusal prompts appeal

Developers behind a rejected application to build nine wind turbines on the cusp of Exmoor National Park have lodged an appeal against the decision.

But campaigners opposed to the plan at Batsworthy Cross say they are not disheartened – and will fight the decision all the way.

North Devon Council, which rejected the application in June, has vowed to robustly defend its decision when it comes before the Secretary of State in 2012.

The plan was refused at a heated five-and-a-half-hour meeting in Bishops Nympton.

Councillors said the plan, submitted by RWE Npower Renewables, would have an adverse impact on the landscape of Exmoor and there would be a loss of amenity for residents.

But project developer Chris Nunn believes the company has good grounds for appeal.

He said the turbines could produce 18 megawatts, which is enough energy to supply the equivalent of about 8,700 homes.

He said: “Batsworthy Cross is an excellent location for a wind farm.

“The project could help reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions, potentially provide opportunities for local contractors and provide a valuable long term, sustainable and reliable source of income for the local community, via our community investment funding.

“We have had support for the wind farm in the local area and the planning officer has also recommended the planning application for approval.

“We would urge all in favour of the project to get behind the appeal.”

The move comes as a blow to campaigners who had the uncertainty of the plan hanging over their heads for more than five years.

Despite the application being lodged in 2006, it took five years for North Devon Council to make its decision.

When councillors made the decision, after hearing submissions from 45 people, resident Anita Coleman, who would be living about 600m away from the development, broke down in tears.

Speaking on behalf of many objectors, secretary of the Two Moors Campaign Caroline Harvey said: “We expected an appeal to be lodged. There is so much money involved in these things, that an appeal always comes.

“We first heard about this in October 2005, and it will not be heard until 2012, so it has blighted everyone’s lives for a long time.

“But we have been victorious with Three Moors and Bickham and, although you can never be confident because you never know what the inspector is going to say, we feel there are excellent grounds to refuse this.”

In total, the council has refused seven applications for wind farms in North Devon, all of which decisions have been appealed against, costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The council has won six of those cases, including appeals for the Three Moors site near Knowstone and the Bickham Moor site, in which the inspected said the farms would ruin the face of Exmoor.

But the Fullabrook wind farm, which is now fully-operational, was refused by the council in 2005 and overturned in 2007, after a four-week public inquiry.

Malcolm Easton, head of planning for North Devon Council, said: “Obviously we would prefer not to have to spend time and resources on fighting an appeal.

“However, having resolved to refuse the application, the council is sure those local residents in the vicinity of Batsworthy would expect us to robustly defend our decision.

“The council has been successful in six cases and unsuccessful in one. Therefore, the council believes that it has a good chance of successfully defending its position.”