Serious concerns about potential threats to wildlife have been raised by a Government watchdog over plans to build towering wind turbines on Pennine moorland.
Conservation body Natural England has raised objections to proposals for three 328ft (100m) high structures on Slaithwaite Moor, close to Cupwith reservoir, on moorland above Huddersfield.
The scheme has been submitted by Valley Wind Co- operative, based in Huddersfield’s Colne Valley, which is looking to raise around £10m from the sale of shares to fund the development.
Now the proposals have been dealt a blow with Natural England expressing concerns about the potential damage to species and habitat.
In a letter to Kirklees Council, the body states that the development site, off New Hey Road, is “within or in close proximity” to a European-designated protected habitat and is also nationally protected as the South Pennine Moors Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The Natural England letter says that “significant effects” on species including short-eared owl, golden plover, twite, snipe and curlew cannot be ruled out.
It says an assessment carried out on behalf of the developer currently does not provide enough information and urges Kirklees Council not to grant planning permission “at this stage”.
Disturbance and displacement on species may take place up to 600m from large wind turbines, yet the proposed turbines are around 150m from the South Pennine Moors Special Protection Area, the letter adds.
Natural England claims that the applicant does not appear to have appropriately assessed the importance of the protection area and how it is linked to the proposed development site, which is currently being improved as part of a stewardship scheme.
The conservation body is urging the council to assess and consider three key areas in the decision-making process:
- Biodiversity of local sites.
- Local landscape character.
- Local or national biodiversity priority habitats and species.
The letter concludes: “Should the application change, or if the applicant submits further information relating to the impact of this proposal on the SSSI aimed at reducing the damage likely to be caused, Natural England will be happy to consider it, and amend our position as appropriate.”
A spokesman for the developer, Valley Wind, told the Yorkshire Post that Natural England’s comments were disappointing but the points raised would be taken into consideration.
“We are disappointed with Natural England’s response given the extent of the very thorough ecological assessment work carried out by SLR, our ecology consultants, which is informed by extensive specialist survey work on Slaithwaite Moor, together with published results from completed wind energy projects.
“Objections from statutory consultees relating to requests for further information, such as this, are a standard part of the planning process and all points raised will be duly considered.
“It is, however, worth bearing in mind that the greatest threat to biodiversity is climate change, where urgent action is needed by all.”
There is also opposition to the scheme from a local action group called Slaithwaite Moor Opposes Giant Industrial Turbines.
Spokeswoman Vicky Berryman, a chartered landscape architect who lives at Merrydale, near Slaithwaite, is concerned about the scale of the proposed structures and believes tourism may be damaged.
Mrs Berryman, who part owns a holiday cottage which is near her own home, claimed that such structures would not be found in the Cotswolds or the Lake District.
Huddersfield Civic Society is also objecting. Supporters of the proposals include Friends of the Earth. A public consultation ended last week.
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