People power won the fight against plans for a new windfarm in west Cumbria after councillors ruled it would be “utter sacrilege”.
Copeland Council voted almost unanimously to turn down the plans for the six-turbine development, earmarked for an elevated area of land between Moresby Parks and Frizington known as Weddicar Rigg, after it attracted more than 660 complaints.
However, because the decision went against the council planners’ recommendation to approve, the proposal will go back before the panel for a second opinion at October’s meeting.
Egremont councillor Mike McVeigh told the meeting he was loathe to go against the planning officer’s recommendation but it would be “a step too far and complete and utter sacrilege to put a windfarm in such a majestic place.”
The plans for the 115m high (377ft) turbines attracted 662 objections from residents concerned about the possible devaluation of property and the cumulative impact in an area already “overrun” with wind energy developments.
Moresby, Arlecdon and Frizington and Weddicar parish councils lodged protests with concerns about visual impact and the harmful effect of the turbines on tourism and wildlife.
However, in being urged by their officers to give the scheme the go-ahead, councillors were told that the package of community benefits – including a £50,000 apprentice scheme with Lakes College and a minimum £30,000-a-year donation to a community fund for the 25-year lifespan of the windfarm – would outweigh the harm.
They heard that the plans are in keeping with the government’s emphasis on renewable energy and that, significantly, the Lake District National Park Authority did not object to the plans.
Councillors are independent, however, and can vote against recommendations if they wish – on this occasion voting five-to-one against the plans.
Stephen Haraldsen said: “I would argue that this community has done enough to contribute to a low-carbon environment. It is a valued landscape and to put turbines there would damage that. There is significant ammunition to defend a refusal.”
Jack Park added: “The visual impact would be horrific and I am concerned about the proliferation of turbines in this area.”
The meeting had earlier heard from one of the objectors, Deirdre Alexander, who lives on a farm that neighbours the site.
She said: “The benefits package offered is derisory, and the plans should be considered on their merits and not on what the developer is offering.
“Copeland is doing its best to earn a reputation as the dustbin of England. The residents have had enough.”
The application had been put forward by Banks Renewables, who say that contracts worth £3.5million would be on offer to local companies – and 25 to 30 jobs will be created – during the construction.
The proposals attracted 123 letters of support, plus 15 from local firms.
Banks’ development director, Phil Dyke, urged councillors to accept the plans at yesterday’s meeting.
He said: “A positive legacy could be created and the community benefits are wide-ranging and more than what is offered for other wind turbines. It would have a relatively low environmental impact.”
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