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Planned windfarm site is land ‘of rare and county importance’

The site of a proposed windfarm in west Cumbria is worth more than the developer claims, a public inquiry has heard.

Environment planning consultant Derek Woolerton said the type of open moorland and ridges at Weddicar Rigg, Arlecdon, was scarce and of rare and county importance.

Mr Woolerton, speaking at a six-day public inquiry into plans for a £17m development on land between Moresby Parks and Frizington, said Banks Renewables had not put a high enough value on the site.

Mr Woolerton said that with the proximity of a large single turbine at Watch Hill and a further five turbines at Fairfield Farm, Pica, the Weddicar development, if it went ahead, would create an unacceptable ‘windfarm landscape’ in a relatively small area, and would make any similar developments “difficult to control”. The Weddicar area provided a sense of wildness that was sensitive to change, he said.

Planning inspector Robert Mellor is hearing evidence from Copeland Council, people behind the proposals and several objectors. He will visit the area next Monday before the inquiry finishes on Tuesday.

The plans, for a windfarm of six 115m high turbines with a 25-year life-span and which attracted 662 letters of objection, and 124 in support, were twice turned down by Copeland’s planning panel – a decision that went against officers’ recommendations.

The inspector said he would consider two main issues – what effect the windfarm would have on the character and visual amenity of the landscape and whether any identified harm may be outweighed by any economic or environmental benefits of renewable energy production.

Banks Renewables say the Weddicar Rigg windfarm would have a generation capacity of up to 12MW, an important contribution to national carbon reduction commitments.

The company is also offering a programme of habitat management and of local community benefit with £3.5m available to local construction companies, the creation of between 25 and 30 jobs, an apprenticeship scheme with Lakes College and a £30,000 donation each year to a community fund.

“Proposals can create significant adverse effects and still be considered acceptable,’’ said Banks’ representative Richard Glover. “If this were not the case, no windfarm proposal would ever be considered acceptable.”

But Mr Woolerton said the development would have a detrimental effect on the landscape character, which was of a type that was scarce in Cumbria, was valued by local people and was worthy of conservation.

The inquiry continues.