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Even less wind farms being allowed on appeal, new figures show

The spread of wind turbines across the Westcountry has slowed even further, figures obtained by the Western Morning News show, as campaigners report a sudden surge in support for council decisions to refuse projects.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles introduced new Government guidelines 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 heartlands.

Figures previously obtained by the Western Morning News in February showed a 31% drop in the number of successful appeals by developers in Devon and Cornwall since the new rules took effect in October.

The drop in decisions being overturned in Devon and Cornwall fell from 75% to 44% – compared to a smaller dip from 54% to 48% nationally.

This week the Campaign to Protect Rural England in Devon announced that the last six appeal decisions released in the past ten days four turbines and two solar parks) have seen committee rulings upheld.

The latest, up-to-date statistics from the Planning Inspectorate confirm that the number has fallen again by 12% – to 32% – with just 12 out of the past 37 appeals finding in favour of developers

Campaigners have welcomed the reduction but also noted a surge in the number of solar schemes being granted permission on appeal between October and June – six out of eight cases or a 75% success rate for renewable energy companies.

Penny Mills, spokesman for the CPRE in Devon, said the recent decisions are “welcome” but “ one swallow doesn’t make a summer”.

She added: “There are still three solar farms and 32 wind turbines awaiting appeal decisions throughout North, Mid and West Devon, as well as Torridge.

“ And the bandwagon of greedy developers rolls on, with more applications submitted, despite announcements that we have already met our renewables targets.”

Against a backdrop of growing rural unrest at the apparent ease with which developers were winning consent against strong local opposition, new planning practice guidance for renewable and low carbon energy was unveiled on July 29 last year.

Since October, when the Department of Communities and Local Government said the policy steer would begin to take effect on appeals, the Secretary of State has called in 16 multiple turbine wind farm applications, dismissing 14 and allowing two projects.

Nationally, inspectors dismissed 102 of the 187 decisions on turbines – in Devon and Cornwall 25 were dismissed out of 37 during the eight months.

Figures for appeals by developers against solar farm refusals showed that 18 out of 31 were dismissed, two by Mr Pickles.

In the Westcountry, six were allowed and two dismissed.

The Planning Inspectorate pointed out that “it does in fact uphold the majority of local council decisions”.

A spokesman added: “Inspectors are appointed to hear renewable energy appeals for their experience, skill and judgement and will always take account of current guidance.

“Every case is judged on its merits and on the evidence placed before the Inspector, who is required to give sound reasons for his judgement in each decision.”