Campaigners against wind farms on the Somerset Levels are celebrating two more victories with decisions in the Appeal Court and by local councillors.
Green energy company Ecotricity has lost an Appeal Court bid to overturn a ruling that it cannot build four 120-metre high wind turbines at West Huntspill, while Sedgemoor District councillors have turned down an application by EDF Energy for wind turbines at Withy End, Woolavington.
The Appeal Court ruling led to a broadside from Gloucestershire-based Ecotricity claiming that the earlier intervention of Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles was: “politically motivated”.
Locals in the area, who have been fighting a variety of proposals for more than five years say turbines would ruin views and have a serious impact on tourism.
Sedgemoor District Council reasons for turning down the scheme included an unacceptable intrusion into the flat landscape, and potential harm to birds flying to and from protected sites, which were not outweighed by the potential benefits of tackling climate change.
Ecotricity launched its Appeal Court action after Mr Pickles over-ruled a planning appeal inspector’s recommendation.
The planning inspector accepted the structures would have a significant impact, but did not think it was enough to justify rejection.
Mr Pickles disagreed. Last year he also rejected an application by Broadview Energy for four turbines between Rooksbridge and Pilrow, also in the M5 corridor.
At the Appeal Court hearing Ecotricity argued that the Secretary of State had no basis for coming to a different decision from the planning inspector and that he could not have made a proper evaluation of the photomontages supplied by Ecotricity since he had not visited the site.
In a statement Huntspill Windfarm Action Group said: “The appeal judges said that the Secretary of State had every right to reach a different conclusion and that this was a matter of planning judgement. The judges further stated that the site visit argument had been used many times previously and was never upheld. In this case the Secretary of State had agreed with the defence argument that some of the photomontages were misleading and minimized the impact on the landscape.”
The statement added: “While we can be very pleased with this result, we must be mindful that EDF has six months to appeal.”
Huntspill Wind farm Action Group raised approximately £20,000 to fight its campaign. The money paid for leaflet drops, information boards and it also contributed towards some costs during the Planning Inspector’s visit.
An Ecotricity spokesperson said: “We are disappointed with the decision. There’s no doubt in our minds that the Black Ditch site is absolutely an appropriate location for four wind turbines and meets all of the planning criteria, as evidenced by the recommendation for approval by the Planning Inspector.
“We believe Eric Pickles decision was flawed and his intervention in the planning process, to be politically motivated.”
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