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‘Victory for common sense’ after Norfolk onshore wind farm is rejected by inspector

Objectors hailed a victory for people power yesterday after plans for three large wind turbines in south Norfolk were rejected by a planning inspector.

An almost six-year saga over proposals for an onshore wind farm, near Diss, appeared to be over last night after a development for the former Pulham Airfield was dismissed following a public inquiry.

The scheme for three 126m-high turbines at land at Upper Vaunces Farm, off Semere Green Road, was unanimously rejected by South Norfolk councillors almost two years ago because of concerns about the “unacceptable” impact on the landscape and an “overbearing” impact on neighbours in nearby Rushall, Dickleburgh, Pulham St Mary and Pulham Market.

Those concerns were supported by planning inspector Zoe Hill yesterday, who rejected an appeal by applicant TCI Renewables after a lengthy inquiry, which began last June.

In an appeal decision, the inspector said the proposed development would result in a material change to the setting of nearby listed buildings, particularly the Grade I listed round tower church at Rushall, and there would be a “substantial effect on visual amenity” for people living in 20 homes in a 1km area.

The applicant said the turbines would generate enough renewable energy to power about 3,500 homes. However, the plans received more than 400 letters of objection, with almost 40 letters of support.

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, who opposed the scheme, yesterday said the decision was a “victory for common sense”.

“The inspector has clearly listened to strongly expressed local views and I am particularly pleased that she has recognised that the turbines’ impact on the gentle rural landscape in Rushall would be significant and harmful.

“St Mary’s Church in Rushall would have been overwhelmed by these turbines, and some residents would have had no escape from turbines towering over their homes.

“In order to take proper advantage of the benefits of wind power we should continue to go offshore. It would then be possible to have large- scale developments and big economies of scale, without the intrusion which this type of development onshore will inevitably cause in a gentle rural landscape,” he said.

TCI Renewables is also awaiting determination on another three turbine schemes on the other side of the A140 at Tivetshall St Mary.

The Oxfordshire-based company is also set to submit plans for four turbines at Hempnall in south Norfolk by the end of the year following a public exhibition last month. Lucy Melrose, of the 4Villages campaign group, said she hoped the decision would help other onshore wind farm objectors.

“We are very pleased that it has been dismissed.

“Right from day one it has been an inappropriate site and it is so constrained.

“An awful lot of time and money has been wasted.

“This is happening all around the country and we had to battle against investment bankers and central government. All must be judged on individual merits, but this gives a bit of heart to people,” she said.

The proposals had received opposition from South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market, the Norfolk Gliding Club at Tibenham, two churches and six nearby parish councils.

Keith Kiddie, cabinet member for environment and regulation at South Norfolk Council, added: “We are very pleased that the planning inspector has recognised the important reasons why South Norfolk Council’s planning committee turned down this application for wind turbines. It is welcome and vindicates our original decision.”

The planning inquiry reconvened earlier this year after a reservoir was constructed close to the wind farm site.

However, the inspector said the proposals would not have materially harmed bird populations in the area.

TCI Renewables declined to comment on the appeal decision yesterday.