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Peel hoping to overturn council’s refusal

Peel Energy is hoping to overturn Melton Council’s decision to refuse permission for nine turbines up to 125m high on land between Asfordby and Ab Kettleby.

Over the past week the inquiry has heard evidence from Peel and Melton Council and their advocates and expert witnesses on the subjects of heritage assets and landscape and visual impact.

Peel is arguing that those stated reasons for turning its application down were insufficient grounds for refusal, pointing out that councillors had also gone against their own planning officer’s recommendation and only by a majority decision of six votes to four.

It has been telling the inquiry that the need for renewable energy, as has been recognised by the Government, is the crucial factor.

Andrew Newcombe QC, for Peel, said: “It means that, in drawing any planning balance, considerable weight is to be attached to bringing forward any relevant renewable energy project. Thus there must be an imperative and overriding reason for refusing a project. The mere fact there may be impacts – even at the national level – which some argue to be adverse is not, of itself, sufficient to weigh the balance negatively.”

He added that research reveals anticipation often to be worse than actuality and that surveys of local residents after the construction of windfarms ‘reveal a shift in favour of turbines, or towards a more neutral stance’.

Melton Council maintains that the proposed development would result in substantial harm to the setting of Grade II listed St Bartholomew’s Church, Welby, and significant harm to the setting of the churches in Ab Kettleby and Kirby Bellars and other scheduled ancient monuments, a view supported by English Heritage.

It is also claiming that Peel’s Environmental Statement failed to select a number of appropriate and sufficient viewpoints from where to assess the visual impact of the development and therefore ‘substantially underestimated the real visual impact of the proposals on the landscape character’.

Expert witness Philip Russell-Vick told the inquiry: “The result of the proposed development is that a new ‘windfarm landscape’ would be imposed on the Wolds countryside and that would extend some 1km from the outer turbines in all directions.

“A landscape with a ‘windfarm sub-type’ would be created in an area of up to 3.5km from the turbines. Witin this area, up to about 2km, the magnitude of effect on landscape character would be substantial to severe and would affect an area including the settlements of Ab Kettleby, Wartnaby and Holwell.”

Campaign group STOP, which is representing local people’s views at the appeal, pointed out there are 273 properties within 900m of the nearest turbine.

It said: “This is a landscape rich in heritage, a diverse and attractive landscape with villages and homes closely proximate to the site. This is the wrong development proposal in the wrong place and STOP agrees with the local planning authority that this appeal should be dismissed.”

The planning inquiry opened last Wednesday and will close on May 24 with the inspector’s decision due on or before August 9. STOP flew three blimps at the site to coincide with a site visit.

A specially scheduled evening session was held last night when members of the public were allowed to make submissions. For more details on this visit www.meltontimes.co.uk from 2pm today.

Planning issues will be addressed at the inquiry, which is being held at the former council offices in Phoenix House, Nottingham Road, today and tomorrow.

On Tuesday STOP will present evidence on noise concerns with an expert responding on behalf of Peel Energy.