A borough council has been accused of shrouding a potential application for a 100-metre tall wind turbine in secrecy after a proposal took more than three months to become public knowledge.
Renewables First sought St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s opinion on whether an environmental impact assessment would be needed for a site in Cavendish, near Sudbury, back in August, but the details only appeared on St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s public planning website a matter of days ago.
The delay has prompted concern from Stansfield Parish Council, with the prospective plans for Wales End Farm set to be top of the agenda at the council’s meeting on Wednesday.
The request for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a preliminary planning stage, and a full planning application would need to be submitted to and approved by St Edmundsbury.
Richard Evans, Stansfield Parish Council chairman. said: “The application and the secrecy surrounding it are deeply disturbing. Elected district councillors should be informed of controversial applications such as this the moment they arrive on a planning officer’s desk.
“In their reply to Renewables First, the planners admit the size of the proposed turbine would have a significant impact on the landscape, wildlife and local heritage.
“There is little doubt that if permission is granted for one turbine, more will follow on some of the most beautiful countryside in the area.”
St Edmundsbury has already approved a 78m high turbine at nearby Clare and is currently considering an application for a similar turbine at Haverhill.
County councillor for Clare, Mary Evans, said: “It’s a very picturesque part of the county. I am not opposed to green energy as such, but I just think it should be in the right place. I worry that a precedent might have been set.
“This is just a preliminary process, so there’s not a full planning application, but I want people to understand this could well happen and if they want to oppose it we need to get our act together.”
The plans are for agricultural land at Wales End Farm and propose a wind turbine with a 73m hub height with a 99.5m maximum blade tip height.
In response, a report by senior planning officer Marianna Christian said an EIA would not be necessary, despite the proposed site being close to three sites of special scientific interest – Northey Wood, Long Wood and King’s Wood – and the locally designated Hawkedon Special Landscape Area.
She added: “There will potentially be a cumulative landscape impact associated with the development having regard to other wind turbine proposals in nearby parishes.”
A spokeswoman from St Edmundsbury said: “This is a request for a screening opinion from a renewable energy company. The request is not something that the council as the local planning authority can consult on, but we can and do publish the request so that the interest is in the public domain, as we have here.
“Should a planning application come forward it will be subject to full public consultation, as all planning applications are, and all interested parties will be asked to make representations.”
Renewables First’s submission says the wind turbine would require underground cabling, an access track and temporary hard standing for a crane while the turbine is constructed,
The submission, signed by wind planner Jamie Baldwin, also acknowledges that the turbine will have a significant impact on noise in the area “having regard to the scale of the wind turbine proposed”.
It adde: “The size and nature of the development would be modest, its impact would not place undue pressure on natural resources, and the risk of pollution, nuisance or accidents would be minimal.
“The cumulative impact of a single wind turbine project, even if others are approved in the area, is unlikely to be significant.”
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