A large wind turbine has been turned down by planners in Devon in what could prove to be a test case for the Government’s recent shake up of the controversial renewable energy policy.
The refusal of planning permission for the 219-foot (67metre) mast at Ridgecombe Farm, Lifton, by West Devon Borough Council, is thought to be the first decision since the Conservatives ended subsidy a year early for onshore wind last month.
Planners have posted the decision dated June 29 on the council website but not yet released their reasons.
This has left campaigners and energy firms on tenterhooks as to how, if at all, the new changes to planning policy which accompanied the new policy changes have affected official thinking.
How the local authority concludes could indicate whether a string of existing applications in Devon and Cornwall will fare now ministers have made it much harder to gain approval.
Bob Barfoot, chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in Devon, said there were, in his opinion, sufficient grounds to reject the application – which he considers the first decision since the rules changed – based on the old system of policy guidance.
The scheme would be close to the Grade-1 listed church of St Mary, in Lifton.
However, he added: “It is going to be very interesting to see whether the refusal includes the new guidance.
“After that we will have to wait for the first appeal. In all the cases waiting to be heard that I know of the inspector has written to the appellants asking for their view on the new guidance, suggesting it will be used in determinations.”
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd’s announced on June 18 the decision to scrap incentives under the Renewables Obligation (RO) from next April.
Ms Rudd has predicted that around 250 onshore projects already in development are likely to be cancelled, meaning 2,500 turbines – many of them in Scotland – will now be mothballed.
Anti-wind-farm campaigners are jubilant that the Government has also changed guidance to prevent projects outside designated areas or those without local support.
Trade body Regen South West said the move would “clobber” firms in the region who have invested “in good faith”, according to the region’s
Merlin Hyman, chief executive, said around eight wind schemes set to produce 1MW or more power would now be tough to develop.
The CPRE calculates there are a total of 25 schemes still at appeal pending a decision in Devon, and another 24 turbines awaiting a decision by the local planning authorities – 49 turbines in total hinging on the interpretation of the changes.
No-one from West Devon Borough Council was available to comment on the reasons for refusal.
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