A giant wind farm, initially rejected by planners but approved on appeal, will affect dozens of local people and hundreds more tourists, campaigners warned yesterday.
The nine 103-metre-high turbines at Batsworthy Cross, near Knowstone, South Molton, will be visible for miles around and seen by drivers on the A361 North Devon link road, opponents of the plan complain.
They thought they had successfully scuppered the scheme but yesterday’s announcement that the appeal against planning refusal has been granted brings to an end a campaign which began in 2006.
Last June North Devon Council’s planning committee unanimously refused the application. Developers RWE nPower Renewables, appealed and a month-long public inquiry was held, resulting in yesterday’s approval.
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England said the decision had “horrendous” consequences for those living nearby and claims it is incompatible with the Government’s much trumpeted localism agenda, which is “just not working”.
Bob Barfoot, CPRE chairman in North Devon, said: “The Government says it will put power back into local communities but it is all weasel words as the decisions of local councils and views of parishes are dismissed by planning inspectors.
“It is ruining people’s future all for the sake of money and is not going to save the planet – the decisions are so inconsistent.”
The Batsworthy Cross application was the first of four in the Knowstone area and the only one to be approved. Plans for nine turbines at Three Moors and a further four at Bickham Moor were defeated after appeals in 2009 while an application for two turbines at Cross Moor was “disposed” of by the council this year.
Opponents of the Batsworthy scheme reformed The Rural Exmoor Alliance (TREA), which was originally formed to fight the Three Moors and Bickham Moor public inquiries, raising tens of thousands of pounds to fight three public inquiries.
The Inspector agreed with nearly all of the evidence put forward by TREA and the council, stating that the scheme would be harmful to landscape character, local views and in views from the Exmoor National Park.
He accepted that local residents’ living conditions would suffer in terms of views and tranquillity and claimed that “significant effects on highway safety” on the North Devon Link Road could be overcome by road improvements. But he decided the benefits of reduced greenhouse gas emissions would be long lasting and the need for new renewable electricity generating projects is urgent.
Jane Faust, a founder member of the Two Moors Campaign, said: “The community does not want this development.”
Councillor Mike Edmunds, Executive Member for Strategic Planning at North Devon Council, said the council were “disappointed” with the decision.
He said: “We are disappointed by the Planning Inspector’s decision to grant permission for nine wind turbines at Batsworthy Cross at Knowstone.
“The application was originally refused by North Devon Council’s Planning Committee in June 2011, whilst another application, for a temporary anemometer mast, was also refused last December.
“The reasons why the committee refused permission for these applications were on the grounds of visual impact on the local landscape and on the heritage assets in the locality of the wind farm. This extends to the intrusion of the wind farm into views towards and from Exmoor National Park, as well as a loss of amenity to residents.
“However, despite these reasons being heard at the public inquiry, which took place this summer, the Planning Inspectorate has granted permission for the development, which they have three years to implement.”
RWE nPower Renewables are expected to make a statement today.