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Secretary of State to have the final say on Wolds wind farm plan

Controversial plans for six wind turbines near a Yorkshire Wolds stately home will be decided by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles.

The scheme has been called in for a Government decision following a public inquiry this week into the scheme for Thornholme Field, near Burton Agnes Hall.

Planning inspector Paul Griffiths, who chaired the inquiry, will send his report to the Communities and Local Government Secretary for the final say.

After hearing evidence from would-be developers Wind Prospect Development Ltd and East Riding Council, which refused permission, the inspector visited Burton Agnes Hall and the surrounding area to view the landscape.

Martin Carter, for the council, had told the inquiry views of the turbines would be a distracting feature, “competing with the hall’s architectural dominance for the viewer’s attention”.

He said: “The appeal site is not in some quiet backwater of the countryside but can fairly be said to be in a focus of activity for local people and visitors.

“The visual effects of the proposal need to be assessed in that context.

“The experience of turbines by visitors to Burton Agnes Hall will not be gained merely from the hall and its grounds and its picnic site at the car park, but will be an important element of their experience as they arrive and depart to, depending upon their route and means of transport.”

Mr Carter argued the adverse effects of the scheme were not simply those all commercial wind energy schemes would bring.

He claimed the scheme would result in “particular harm to the character of the local landscape”, as well as eroding living conditions for a number of local residents.

Marcus Trinick, QC for Wind Prospect Developments Limited, insisted very great care had been taken to ensure heritage assets would be properly conserved.

He said: “It has never been claimed that the need for renewable energy automatically over-rides environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities.”

Mr Trinick said since visitors to Burton Agnes Hall would experience their visit within the hall rather than when arriving and leaving, the impact on the stately home had been “significantly over-claimed”.

He said: “With regard to Burton Agnes Hall, it is agreed between the witnesses that harm would be occasioned but not substantial harm.”

Mr Trinick argued the scheme was acceptable.

He said: “The very fact there are no issues that remain for examination in relation to aviation, national designations for landscape or nature conservation reasons, international designations, noise or indeed cultural heritage, are in my view material factors which should weigh in favour of the development in the overall balance.

“The absence of any issues other than landscape and visual concerns itself goes to the issue of acceptability.”

The Secretary of State is expected to rule on the appeal towards the end of the year, after he has considered the planning inspector’s report from the inquiry.