- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

Why did Natural England back down on Delph?

Protesters battling to stop installation of nine wind turbines are wondering why Natural England withdrew its objection to a planning application.

Wind Ventures is seeking consent for the 126m tip-height turbines on a site sandwiched between two nature reserves on Fen Farm, South Fen, West Pinchbeck, also known as The Delph.

Protest group Stop West Pinchbeck Wind Farm hired an ornithological expert who found “major flaws” in the way the company collected its bird survey data.

South Holland District Council (SHDC) met natural England last September. Following that meeting, the developers submitted further surveys to the council.

In April, Stop West Pinchbeck Wind Farm chairman Tony Fear said standards set by Natural England “do not allow you to patch up a poor study with data from a different season so continuing to consider the planning application without redoing the study seems questionable”.

But Natural England has since withdrawn its objection while issuing advice to SHDC on a number of areas, including that it should make a more thorough assessment of potential displacement of birds.

Mr Fear said: “With Natural England now withdrawing their objection, they are in effect approving a sub-standard survey which just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. If you create a standard, you need to be the one that’s making sure that everyone is working to that standard – and if you can’t be bothered to do it, what’s the point of the standard?”

He said Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, which runs Willow Tree Fen Nature Reserve and has received funding from Natural England, is maintaining its own objection to the plan.

A spokesman for Natural England said: “The wind farm development at West Pinchbeck is a local issue to be determined by the local authority and we have provided South Holland District Council with ecological advice to enable them to make that decision.”

• Opponents The Delph wind farm may go to the local government watchdog, the Ombudsman, to complain about the district council’s handling of the application.

Mr Fear is watching closely the council’s handling of the EnergyPark Sutton Bridge application – and may follow in the footsteps of Shirley Giles, the Sutton Bridge hero and great-granny, who has now gone to the Ombudsman.

Mr Fear said his group believed they would have been more involved in the planning process but found: “We are just not part of the party, really.”

A council spokesman said: “There has been ongoing dialogue with the applicant and with Natural England and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust in relation to ecological issues, including those raised by the stop the wind farm group. The group submitted its latest comments on September 8 in relation to further information submitted by the applicant at the end of August.”