Campaigners fighting plans for a windfarm have scored another victory after communities secretary Eric Pickles asked that he be given the final say on whether the scheme gets the go-ahead.
South Norfolk Council’s development management committee refused planning permission for three 126m-high turbines on the edge of Hempnall, despite a recommendation from council officers.
But because the authority did not make a decision on the application within eight weeks, developer TCI Renewables lodged an appeal – meaning a formal planning inquiry is due to be started at SNC’s offices in Swan Lane, Long Stratton, on April 1.
That meant planning inspector John Braithwaite was due to settle the matter after hearing evidence from the applicant and opponents to the scheme, including the Stop Hempnall’s Onshore Wind Turbines (SHOWT) campaign group.
But after South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon and SHOWT made representations to the Department for Communities and Local Government, it has now been announced that the decision will be “called-in” or “recovered”.
That means Mr Braithwaite will only make a recommendation about the application and that it will be referred to Mr Pickles for the final decision.
Hilary Battey, from SHOWT, said residents were pleased.
“It means that the final arbiter is not one man,” she said. “It is a bigger stage where the final decision will be made. We’re very grateful for the support our local MP has given throughout the campaign.”
She added that SHOWT, which is sharing a barrister with Hempnall and Saxlingham parish councils and is calling experts to give evidence at the public inquiry, was “ready and prepared” for the hearing.
However she said the campaign had been a “gruelling fight” and that SHOWT has had to fund-raise to cover the costs of calling experts to the inquiry.
SHOWT had previously been looking to raise upwards of £10,000 to cover its costs at the public inquiry and has held a series of events in the area to raise cash.
The next event is a race night at Hempnall Village Hall at 7.30pm on Friday, March 28.
Mrs Battey said SHOWT had already raised £35,000 fighting this application and related ones over the years.
TCI Renewables declined to comment, saying the minister’s decision to recover the planning application would make little difference to the overall outcome.
It has said the location is a good site for a windfarm and would help with meeting renewable energy targets.
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