A decision on the Asfordby windfarm appeal is unlikely to be made before Christmas – and could cost council tax payers an extra £40,000.
The inquiry resumed on Friday to see if objections lodged by Network Rail could be overcome.
Planning inspector Rupert Grantham heard that a statement of common ground had been drawn up by Network Rail and Peel Energy. The renewable energy firm wants to erect nine turbines up to 125m high on land between Asfordby and Ab Kettleby.
However, while some progress had been made the inquiry was told that the two sides could not agree on the conditions required to satisfy Network Rail’s concerns.
The second complicating factor is that the appeal has also been called in by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles who will now make the final decision.
As reported in the Melton Times Mr Pickles made a ministerial statement about on-shore wind turbines last month but the Government has yet to publish the new planning guidance.
The inquiry has once again been adjourned and is now likely to resume in mid-November. Even if the inspector can then close the inquiry his report and recommendations still have to go to Mr Pickles for the final say.
The delays have forced Melton Council, which is robustly defending its decision to refuse permission for the wind turbines, to set aside a further £40,000 to cover the cost of providing legal advocacy and expert evidence at the inquiry. Members had already committed £80,000 to fight the appeal while campaign group STOP has also been representing objectors to the windfarm throughout the inquiry.
Network Rail had told the inquiry it was concerned with the potential for interference to radio signals which are used to control train movement on the Old Dalby Test Track. It is used by Transport for London for Tube trains.
When the inquiry resumed there was much discussion about the height and position of turbine nine – known as T9 – in relation to power lines, access tracks to the site and rail infrastructure in the event of ‘turbine topple’.
The inspector heard that a 500m section of power lines running along the southern boundary of Asfordby Business Park could be placed underground, but an overall agreement could not be reached.
Peel maintained that the like-lihood and risk of turbine topple was extremely low but agreed to present three options to the inspector and Secretary of State with regard to T9.
It’s preference would be for no change but alternatively T9 could be moved 10m and reduced in height to 108m or removed from the scheme entirely.
As a result Peel will have to provide supplementary environmental information and a further period of public consultation will be necessary.
Melton Council and STOP have been arguing at the inquiry that the location is wrong while Peel insist the impact on heritage assets and the landscape do not outweigh the benefits of the scheme in generating renewable energy to power 8,500 homes.
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