August 6, 2013

Turbines policy may change to cut planning battle costs

By Oliver Evans, covering Banbury | The Oxford Times | 6th August 2013 |

Wind farm policy in North Oxfordshire could be reviewed over concerns that it allows turbines to be located too near homes.

Cherwell District Council (CDC) is set to probe its 2011 policy over fears that it could face high costs over planning battles.

In 2010 the Planning Inspectorate overturned a council decision and approved a £10m plan for four turbines between Fritwell and Fewcott.

This cost the council £7,007 in legal fees. Permission has run out and the developer Bolsterstone PLC has applied for another three years.

An 86.5m high turbine has also been approved for Cherwell Valley Services, off the M40 at Ardley.

Caversfield district councillor Jon O’Neill will urge a review of the policy at tonight’s overview and scrutiny committee.

He says the council does not currently have a “robust policy” over wind farms.

The key is guidelines on how close turbines can be to housing – at least 800m away from homes and no less than three times the turbine’s height, he said.

Currently places with more than 10 homes should not have turbines in more than 90 degrees of their field of view for a distance of five kilometres.

Turbines should also be refused permission if they are visually intrusive or noisy within 400m of properties and within 2km of “heritage assets”.

Mr O’Neill said the council was paying the price in terms of planning appeal costs.

The Conservative called for a full review and for the creation of a “stronger and more robust policy”.

He said: “What I am asking for is to make sure it is robust and proper and gives value for money.”

This is vital due to new Government guidance and because the previous policy was written at the “eleventh hour” to address the Fewcott plan, he said.

The new guidance states turbine plans do “not automatically override local environmental and heritage protections and concerns of communities”. Nigel Hall, of Hanwell, near Banbury, was among those who fought plans for five to eight turbines of 130m – almost as high as Blackpool Tower – in 2011. They were rejected on appeal.

He said of the policy: “I don’t think it is robust enough. They don’t take into account the impact on the area.”

Councillor James Macnamara, who drew up the 2011 policy, welcomed a review.

He said the plans must be defendable at appeals, saying: “If a decision is too severe it will be knocked back.”

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