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Unwanted turbines putting council in a spin

Council chiefs are being urged to seek an urgent meeting with a Minister over the “proliferation” of wind farms in the East Riding amid concerns about the local authority’s power to control their numbers.

The borough had already exceeded its renewable energy targets for 2021 before they were scrapped along with regional planning guidance in February, but it is still proving attractive to wind farm developers because of its vast open spaces and proximity to the coast.

But as well as sparking opposition from many local residents, who have successfully campaigned against some projects, most wind farm proposals that are rejected by East Riding Council’s planning committee are then subsequently approved on appeal by a Government planning inspector.

Councillors meeting today will be asked to take up the issue with the Government in a bid to wrest back local control over planning decisions.

In his motion, Conservative councillor Bryan Pearson said: “Given the proliferation of land-based wind farms across the East Riding, largely as a result of decisions by the Planning Inspectorate, this council seeks an early and urgent meeting with the relevant Minister to ensure that decisions that have a huge impact upon the East Riding landscape are taken at a local level by councillors elected to do exactly that.”

Council leader Stephen Parnaby has previously voiced similar concerns.

The issue has so vexed the authority that it prompted an article in the spring edition of Your East Riding, its magazine for residents.

This reveals that inspectors have ruled in favour of developers on nine separate applications after they had initially been rejected by councillors. The result is the construction of a total of 70 turbines the council did not want.

Only two wind farm applications were dismissed on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate.

At a time of huge squeezes on local authority finances, the cost to the council of defending its position at these 11 planning appeals is thought to be about £770,000.

Coun Symon Fraser, portfolio holder for environment, housing, and planning, said: “We’ve found it quite puzzling just how many appeals we’ve lost. We would expect to win some and lose some, but almost without fail these proposals have been approved at the appeal stage.

“If that’s what’s going to happen, really what we need is proper guidance from Government which allows us not to waste taxpayers’ money pursuing a local democratic decision which is seen centrally as unsustainable.”

Coun Fraser also said the frequency with which local planning decisions on wind farms were overturned by inspectors seemed to be at odds with one of the Government’s key policy objectives of “localism”.

“To my mind, this does not sit easily with the much trumpeted ‘localism’ agenda,” he said.

The council is facing a projected funding reduction of £47.3 million between 2010-11 and 2016-17.

The Government’s grant to the council over the financial year to 2014 has been slashed by £11.3m, or 8.1 per cent.