Copeland council is on a collision course with a renewable energy giant over its refusal to allow a controversial £17 million windfarm to be built.
Councillors voted today for the second – and final – time to refuse planning permission for the six-turbine Weddicar Rigg development.
However, they were earlier told by Phil Dyke, the development director for applicants Banks Renewables, that the company would take the matter to an independent public inquiry if – as they subsequently did – councillors threw the plans out.
Councillors voted five to two against the windfarm – complete with 115m high (377ft) turbines – earmarked for an elevated area of land between Moresby Parks and Frizington.
Standing by the refusal decision they originally made last month, councillors ruled that the negative visual impact the windfarm would have was more important than the government’s policy on renewable energy.
Mr Dyke said after the meeting that the company was “exceptionally disappointed” with the decision.
The plans attracted 662 letters of objection and 124 letters of support.
One of the objectors, John Vout, told councillors at the meeting: “The visual impact would be severe and ruinous to the local valley. The turbines would be higher than the valley is deep; it’s an unblemished valley and we hope it will remain that way.”
He also raised concern about the impact on biodiversity, recreation and tourism.
Moresby, Arlecdon and Frizington and Weddicar parish councils had lodged protests with concerns about visual impact and the harmful effect of the turbines on tourism and wildlife.
Councillors had again been urged by their officers to approve the plans and were told that the government’s policy in favour of renewable energy should outweigh the negative impact the windfarm would have.
They were also asked to consider that the package of community benefits – including an apprentice scheme with Lakes College to create 600 positions and a minimum £30,000-a-year donation to a community fund for the 25-year lifespan of the windfarm – when making their decision.
John Groves, Copeland’s head of planning, told them: “This development has a significant impact but we have to asses that impact against national policy guidance that favours sustainable development. In this case, the policy takes precedent.
“We have taken experienced external advice which has shown that our conclusions are justified.”
Mr Groves also told councillors that their grounds for refusal must be “robust” in anticipation of a possible appeal.
Mr Dyke, for Banks, said an independent telephone survey showed opinion was split 50/50.
He added the plans had been supported by Natural England, in terms of managing the hen harriers that live on the site and that the local business community “acknowledges that there are great opportunities for them.”
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