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Campaign steps up as turbine plans are submitted

Controversial plans for up to 36 wind turbines on the edge of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty have taken a step forward with the submission of a planning application.

Kelda Group, which includes Yorkshire Water, has applied for permission to build seven turbines on the first of three sites next to Knabs Ridge, an existing wind farm with eight turbines to the west of Harrogate.

They will be up to 100m tall and are predicted to last for 25 years, after which the application states they will be decommissioned.

The company argues the suitability of the site for renewable energy has been established by its inclusion in Harrogate Borough Council’s Planning and Climate Change study, as well as by the existing turbines which were installed in 2008 following a successful appeal to the government.

In its application, the company said: “It is clear that the inspector at the Knabs Ridge appeal, whilst recognising there would be landscape effects, did not consider the area to be of particular scenic quality, and when considering the compelling need for renewable energy in the planning balance, allowed the appeal.

“This not only potentially demonstrates the suitability of the site, but also a need to consider all issues which may arise within the context of the planning balance, including the compelling need to provide renewable energy.”

However, residents in several parishes around the site have already begun campaigning against the site, as well as two others which have already been subject to scoping applications to establish their viability. One of the proposals, also submitted by Kelda, had 17 turbines of up to 125m, while the other, by Tapar, had four turbines of up to 115m.

Earlier this year, Kelda said the research into the 17-turbine site would not necessarily lead to a planning application, but was the company’s way of assessing the viability of the site.

The turbines were intended to provide some of Yorkshire Water’s electricity, to help achieve its aim of generating up to 18 per cent of its own power by 2015. The application states that the site would connect to the national grid via a substation on Jenny Field Drive.

A website has been set up by a group called Save the Dales, aiming to keep people informed about the plans and simplify the situation.

A spokesman for the group said: “There are 174 pages of document in the application and they aren’t referenced.

“A number of people are now going through those documents and we have put the facts on our website.”

The group has highlighted what the company calls the “zone of theoretical visibility” – an area covering up to 30km from where the turbines could be seen. Among the sites covered in that area are Harewood House, Ripley Castle, the Grade I listed St Wilfrid’s Church in Harrogate and Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, the area’s only World Heritage Site.

A spokesman for Save the Dales said: “What’s very frightening is how far these can be seen from. It’s hitting an area far bigger than anyone could have imagined.”

Meanwhile, parish councils in the surrounding area have been sent details of the plans and are due to give their comments by Thursday, August 23. Among them is Beckwithshaw Parish Council, which meets tonight and has already voiced concerns about the impact on the village, including a potential drop in the value of properties.

The proposals are currently expected to go before the planning committee in October.