August 17, 2013

Councillors silenced over controversial Wirral wind farm expansion plan

By Leigh Marles | Wirral Globe | 14th August 2013 |

Wirral councillors have been left out in the cold with little influence over a Danish firm’s plan to quadruple the size of its wind farm off the coast of the peninsula.

The authority believed it would be asked to provide an important “Local Impact Report” enabling it to formally set out its concerns about the controversial proposal.

But next week’s planning committee will be told the Government has now ruled it requires no such review from Wirral.

The decision is peculiar as the Government’s own advice is that when coming to a major planning decision, “the Secretary of State must have regard to Local Impact Reports” and local authorities are “strongly encouraged” to produce one.

But a document for councillors says the reports are only allowed from authorities that are directly affected by a development – “and in this case the application is in offshore waters outside any English local authority boundary.”

West Kirby councillor and Conservative planning spokesman David Elderton said: “I am very, very disappointed we will no longer be asked to provide this report.

“My own view is that these wind farms are a total waste of time, a scam.

“My objections centre mainly around the fact they are not an efficient way of generating electricity.

“But as a council, we have no control over whether this expansion should be granted planning permission or not.

“There is also the very real possibility the construction of the turbines will create much-needed employment for local people; we have to balance the environmental and visual impact of the enlarged wind farm against that.”

An application by Denmark-based Dong Energy for the massive expansion of its Burbo Bank wind farm was first made in 2011.

The move would mean the off-shore plant would be capable of generating 258 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 170,000 homes.

An additional 69 turbines would be set up four miles off the coast. Covering an area of 40sq km, each would have a maximum “tip height” of 770ft. Dong presently has 30 devices operating in the area.

The massive scale of the expansion means it is considered to be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, so its future will be decided by Government.

Council planners recommend the committee should “endorse” the proposal, so allowing officers to register to take part in further discussions about the expansion.

But they have also set out their concerns, which include the visual impact of the scheme as well as its effects on the environment, fishing areas and noise generated by the giant turbines.

There are additional worries about the effect on “important visitor attractions” such as Hilbre Island and Hoylake’s Royal Liverpool golf links.

However, their report says: “It should be noted while representations have been made in relation to visual impact, national planning statements discourage the refusal of development consent solely on the grounds of adverse effects to visual impact.”

Several local individuals and interest groups – including Hoylake Village Life and the Wirral Society – have registered representations with the Inspectorate directly and will be invited to attend hearings to examine the application.

The issue will be debated when the planning committee meets at Wallasey Town Hall next Thursday, August 22.

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