Controversial wind turbines, proposed in open countryside near Gargrave , have been recommended for approval – with officers issuing a strong warning to councillors that if they act “unreasonably” it could cost the authority thousands of pounds.
EnergieKontor is seeking permission to erect three 100-metre turbines at Brightenber Hill after a previous scheme for five turbines was turned down on appeal in 2010.
The inspector rejected the council’s first two grounds for refusal – harm to the landscape and local heritage assets – but agreed the scheme could adversely affect the amenity of the occupants of Ash Tree Farm 650 metres away.
Now the company has omitted the two southern- most turbines from its plans, including the one nearest to Ash Tree Farm, but its new application has attracted a barrage of objections from both organisations and individuals.
The plan is due to be decided when the planning committee meets at Gargrave Village Hall on Monday at 2pm.
Among the objectors are six local parish councils or parish meetings, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Pendle Borough Council and Ribble Valley Council.
There have also been 212 individual letters of objection, a 891-signature petition from the Friends of Craven Landscape and a 240-signature petition from the British Horse Society.
However, the council has also received 31 individual letters of support and 983 “pro-forma” letters, which although individually addressed have been submitted by “an unidentified source”.
In a report to the committee, officers said the application was essentially identical to that previously considered except the southern-most turbines had been omitted.
“Unless there is some material change in factual circumstances, or legal or planning considerations, there would be a severe risk of the council being perceived as acting unreasonably if it sought to disagree with the inspector’s findings and the council’s decision was the subject of a further appeal.”
They added that the only factual change was the reduction from three to five turbines, changes in planning circumstances were in favour of the development and there was no material change in legal considerations.
“Consequently, repeating the previous grounds for refusal – those relating to visual impact on the landscape and cultural heritage assets – or by giving greater weight to representations concerning the effects on recreation and visitor attractions, nearby horse-riding facilities or the effects of access for abnormal loads, would be likely to be interpreted as unreasonable behaviour on the part of the council in an appeal.
“Therefore, it is strongly emphasised to members that such action would be likely to expose the council to an award of costs against it in an appeal.
“In respect of the effect of the revised scheme on the impact on Ash Tree Farm, this is a matter of planning judgment and it is open and proper for the council to come to a considered view of whether the removal of the two turbines has overcome the inspector’s concerns or not based on the merits of the amended scheme,” they added.
Officers say that in their view the changes are sufficient to mitigate the concerns expressed by the inspector.
“While the impact will still be significant, balanced against the Government’s positive strategy for wind energy, it is not held that the resubmitted scheme would have the same unreasonably overbearing and dominant impact upon the occupiers of Ash Tree Farm.”
They recommend approval of the scheme, with various conditions including one requiring the company to reseek planning permission after 25 years.
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