Hotly debated plans for a wind farm at Batsworthy Cross approved by a government inspector on Monday have received reactions from both dies of the turbine debate.
North Devon Council’s refusal of nine 103-metre turbines at Knowstone was reversed following the appeal by developer RWE npower renewables.
A 15-day public inquiry between June and September, followed by inspector Rupert Grantham’s decision, brings to an end the six-year story of one of the region’s first major wind energy applications, rated at being able to power 8,700 homes.
A determined campaign saw 660 people register their objections, as did local parish councils, South Molton Town Council, Exmoor National Park, the Exmoor Society and ramblers. A total of 110 registered support.
Ricky Knight of the North Devon Green Party said the decision was ‘immensely rewarding’ but they commiserated with the residents who would be affected by the scheme and the objectors who sat with them through the six-week inquiry.
“We would urge the applicants and authorities to ensure the conditions applying to these turbines are stringently adhered to, particularly with respect to noise,” he said.
But the decision is ‘undemocratic’ according to Anita Allen, who owns the listed Shapcott Barton at East Knowstone, about three kilometres from the proposed site.
“The whole community should now collectively sue the land owners and developers jointly for loss of amenity, devaluation and un-saleability of property and noise nuisance,” she said.
“I feel the seven year fight against this development, by so many people, will not end here. The troops should now rally to challenge this decision made by one lone man.”
The council’s planning committee last year unanimously rejected applications for the 18 megawatt scheme, plus a temporary anemometer mast, against the recommendations of its officers.
Councillor Mike Edmunds said this was because of the effect on views, impact on the landscape and loss of amenities to residents. He said the council was disappointed by the inspector’s decision.
Mr Grantham agreed the wind farm would be harmful to the character of the landscape and views from Exmoor or the North Devon Link Road, as well as affecting the living conditions of residents.
But he said ‘the benefits of reduced greenhouse gas emissions would be long lasting and the need for new renewable electricity generating projects is urgent’.
RWE npower renewables said it did not anticipate claiming back costs from north Devon Council after fighting the appeal.
It said once the wind farm was operating, the community would receive a windfall of £18,000 per year over its 25 year lifespan, with local people having a say on how it would be spent.
“We are very pleased the planning inspector has agreed with us that this is an appropriately sited and designed wind farm,” said Lewis Elder at RWE.
“We have consulted with the community during the planning and development and as a responsible developer, we will continue to work with the community throughout the next stages of the project.”