Landscape campaigners in the Westcountry said two appeal rulings on wind farms just a few miles apart – one overturning the refusal of a wind farm and the other upholding the council decision – shows the unpredictability of Government policy.
A planning inspector has reversed a council decision to refuse planning permission for a 220ft (67m) wind turbine (to blade tip) close to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, near Bude, in Cornwall.
The mast can now go ahead at Little Holloborough Farm, near Eastcott, despite local concern that a three-mile zone around the site already contains 15 turbines, with five more awaiting construction and 11 in the pipeline.
In a separate decision, another inspector upheld the decision by Torridge district council to turn down plans for a 252ft (77m) windmill, just across the border in Devon, at Eastwood Farm, Peters Marland, near Torrington.
In this case, the inspector ruled that adding the turbine to the existing schemes in the area would have a “significant adverse effects on the character and appearance of the surrounding landscape”.
The Campaign for Rural England (CPRE) in Torridge district, which has become a target for renewable energy developers in recent years, said there was “no common approach”.
Spokesman Penny Mills said rulings came down to “one person’s opinion” and projects even close to each other can often be evaluated completely differently.
“Each application should be judged on its own merits, but there surely should be agreement about how many turbines can be accommodated in the same landscape,” she added.
“Both proposals are located not far from each other yet the individual inspectors express a difference of opinion, particularly regarding cumulative impact – how many turbines is acceptable in this area and landscape.
“In The Little Holloborough Farm decision the inspector concludes that he doesn’t think there would be a significant effect on the landscape character of the area despite acknowledging the number of turbines in proximity.”
Communities secretary Eric Pickles introduced a fresh policy steer for planners last summer in a bid to quell a growing backlash against the proliferation of renewable energy schemes, seen as electorally damaging in the Tory rural heartland.
The number of wind turbine decisions overturned on appeal across Devon and Cornwall reduced once this advice for inspectors came into effect, the Western Morning News found, with a 31% drop.
The fall in Devon and Cornwall from 75% to 44% – compared to a smaller dip from 54% to 48% nationally – has been welcomed, but campaigners say there has been “no let-up” in the number of schemes landing on planners’ desks.
The Conservative Party has recently signalled that it intends to block new onshore wind projects with details of the policy expected in its general election manifesto next year.
The industry body for renewable energy Regen South West says the technology is proven and should remain a part of Britain’s plans to move away from fossil fuels and calls the sudden removal of subsidy “a mistake”.
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