A public inquiry on two proposed wind farms opened this week.
Planning inspector Robert Mellor heard statements from E.On and Renewable Energy Systems (RES) UK and Ireland as they try to over-turn West Norfolk Council’s decision to refuse permission to put up turbines close to an Iron Age fort.
RES wants to build six 126.5m turbines on a site at Jack’s Lane, Barwick, near Stanhoe. E.On hopes to put up five 100m turbines on land at Chiplow, near Syderstone.
Mr Mellor also heard statements on Tuesday from the council and campaign groups, Creake Action for Protecting the Environment (CAPE) and Against Turbines at Chiplow (ATAC).
The 16-day inquiry, at Lynnsport, will look at the development’s landscape and visual impact, the effect on heritage sites, nature conservation and the living conditions of nearby residents.
E.On barrister Jeremy Pike said there is an urgent need for renewable energy and described the site as a “pleasant agricultural landscape”.
He said: “There is nothing so special about this landscape that 100m wind turbines could not be permitted within it, without causing unacceptable change. If this landscape cannot accommodate turbines of this scale, few if any can.”
Mr Pike said that if the inspector could grant only one application that it should be this proposal as it carries a “comparable level of renewable energy benefit and fewer disbenefits”.
Marcus Trinick QC, acting for RES, outlined Government targets and planning guidance, which states that “significant weight should be given to the need for and benefits of renewable energy”.
He said: “With regards to landscape and visual effects this is quite clearly the right wind farm in the right place.”
David Hart QC and Asitha Ranatunga are representing both protest groups.
Mr Hart told the hearing that policy framework does not necessarily trump local environmental concerns and called for a balance to be struck. He said the wind farms will have a serious detrimental effect on the local community, nearby historic buildings and wildlife, which includes pink footed geese and Montagu’s harriers.
Mr Hart said: “The true picture of the impacts of each of the proposals at Jack’s Lane and Chiplow in terms of noise, ecology and cultural heritage is that they will, individually, and cumulatively give rise to serious and substantial harm.”
The council’s barrister Alexander Booth said the authority is resolutely opposed to the proposals.
He said renewable energy projects have a strong “following wind” in policy terms but it does not follow that these should be consented as a matter of course.
He said: “The prospective developments are, quite simply, not so appropriately sited.”
Mr Booth told the hearing that the two sites were no more than 2.5km apart.
He said the area has an undeveloped rural character and that planners have not exaggerated the impact on nearby heritage sites.