Planners are powerless to halt an influx of wind turbines in Allerdale – admitting quantity alone is not enough.
The claim came at an inquiry into the “disproportionate” number of wind turbine applications being received by the borough in comparison with other regions of the county.
Planning manager Kevin Kerrigan told Allerdale council’s scrutiny sub committee: “It’s clear from some appeal decisions that there are certain areas within Allerdale where cumulative impact is now a real issue, but we can’t say that applies to the whole of Allerdale.
“We have to look at each area on its own merits when an application is submitted.”
His warning came after Paul Carr, of Cockermouth, asked whether a moratorium on wind turbine applications should be put in place across Cumbria until the conclusion of the council’s inquiry into the proliferation them in Allerdale.
Councillor Miriam Gainford said: “Workington is now saturated. People are getting very unhappy about it. How long are people going to have to take it because they happen to live on a windy hill?”
The meeting, attended by half a dozen members of the public, heard from Jill Perry of Friends of the Earth and Jenny Alexander from Friends of Rural Cumbria’s Environment on the pros and cons of wind turbines in the area. But subcommittee chairman Celia Tibble said the inquiry’s remit was simply to explore the patterns of windfarm applications across the county and the reason why so many were in Allerdale.
The inquiry was prompted by Councillor Bill Finlay, who wanted the council to investigate the disproportionate number of turbine applications and, subsequently, turbines in Allerdale compared with other boroughs in the county.
Since 2007 a total of 218 wind development applications have been submitted to Allerdale, Copeland, Carlisle and Eden councils, the county council and the Lake District National Park Authority.
Ninety-four of those – 43 per cent – were submitted to Allerdale council.
Evidence presented to the panel shows Eden has a higher wind energy capacity than Allerdale, yet received fewer than half the number of wind development applications, with 42 since 2007.
The inquiry was told that the areas of Eden not protected from development – particularly the M6 corridor – generally had lower wind speeds than the west coast.
Mr Kerrigan said the number of wind development applications was increasing across the county but Allerdale had had a headstart.
Councillor Konrad Hansen warned the area’s wind turbine saturation could creep up unnoticed.
The meeting heard that planning officers aimed to bring in a policy framework which recognised cumulative impacts of wind turbines.
But Mr Kerrigan added: “The challenge comes in assessment of when that impact becomes unacceptable. There’s a degree of subjectivity to that assessment.”
A new report including details from the inquiry’s discussions will be compiled for a second meeting in June.
The final report will be presented to full council in September.
• An appeal by an energy firm which wanted to build a 220ft wind turbine at Flimby has been dismissed by a planning inspector.
Empirica Investments Limited wanted to put up the turbine at Ewanrigg Hall Farm.
Broughton Moor Parish Council, Friends of Rural Cumbria’s Environment and Westnewton Action Group all objected to the plans.
Allerdale council’s development panel voted in October to reject the plans.