Drumlin fields near Gargrave should be protected as ‘green lungs’ for expanding communities, a hearing has been told.
An appeal hearing into three 100 metre high wind turbines at Brightenber Hill last week saw a number of objections from residents and local groups.
The two day hearing, held at The Coniston Hotel, was launched by Energiekontor against Craven District Council’s refusal of planning permission in September last year. The firm wants to build three 100 metre high turbines, having lost an earlier appeal for five turbines.
Planning inspector Zoe Hill heard from residents that once small rural villages such as Gargrave and Hellifield increase in size because of the demand for new housing, precious open spaces will become more valuable.
District ward councillor Simon Myers told the hearing that Craven District Council had just 26 per cent of the district to build new homes in because the rest lay in the National Park or are Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB). He said developments within this area would make open spaces such as Brightenber Hill more valuable.
“Areas that are unspoilt are increasingly important and these are the green lungs of Craven. We are under huge pressure from Leeds to develop and that is why people are very keen to keep this area as it is” he said.
But David Hardy, barrister for Energiekontor, said: “No one is going to saturate the area with wind turbines so that its characterisation is lost, but at the same time there must be turbines in this area for the communities to contribute.”
He argued that Energiekontor had listened to the comments of the planning inspector following the first, dismissed appeal, and had removed two of the turbines closest to Ash Tree Farm, making the new scheme acceptable.
But Craven District Council argues that the unacceptable impact on Ash Tree Farm and also on Haugh Field Farm remains.
The hearing – described by Ms Hill as a ‘formal discussion’ – also heard objections from Friends of Craven Landscape (FoCL). No member of the public at the hearing spoke in favour of the development, but Ms Hill said she was also taking into account written submissions.
Charlie Yorke, speaking on behalf of five parish councils including Halton West and Martons Both, said the scheme emphatically did not have community support.
“It is a living, distinctive landscape and the people who inhabit it live within the landscape and identify with it,” he said.
He said the villages had spent six years faced with the prospect of the turbines and felt very raw about it.
John Henderson, neighbouring landowner, said he realised owner of the site, dairy farmer Robert Metcalfe, was making money in an easier way than with cattle or sheep, but he criticised the positioning of the turbines.
“What we find difficult is that these three turbines will be sited at the opposite quarter of where he lives and works,” he said, adding that Mr Metcalfe would get the money while residents would suffer the inconvenience.
Others at the hearing raised concerns about a scheme designed to deal with shadow flicker and unacceptable noise, involving complaints made to the council and resulting in the offending turbines being turned off.
Trevor Pickles, chairman of a Gargrave-based cycling club, said his concern was for the roads and the damage caused to them during the construction of the wind turbines.
But Mr Hardy said the community must take its share of commercial renewable energy and with such a large proportion of Craven taken up by the National Park or ANOBs, this was the only place. He dismissed concerns from horse riders, from residents concerned about their views, and said the scheme was now acceptable and should be given permission without delay.
“This is a well designed scheme which has been designed to specifically respond to the conclusions and findings of the previous inspector,” he said.
He accepted it would involve change, would be visible and would mean a change to the local landscape character, but he denied that meant unacceptable harm.
“Simple visibility does not equate to harm, let alone unacceptable harm and having listened to local residents, it has been striking just how many people conflate the two.”
Mr Hardy said the turbines would be removed at the end of their lives (25 years).