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Policy shake up forces refusal of large wind turbine appeal

A council decision to block a 252-foot wind turbine in Devon has been upheld.

Plans for the 77metre mast at Culsworthy Farm, in Sutcombe, were initially refused by Torridge district council in November 2014.

Now, the company behind the project, Temporis Wind Ltd, has lost its appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

It is the latest in a string of refusals since the Government ended subsidies for the technology early and changed policy guidance to make it more difficult to obtain planning permission.

The decision was directly influenced by the new rules and permission was denied partly because there was no local backing.

The decision would have reversed the council refusal had the new rules not been imposed.

Industry experts have condemned the Conservatives for effectively ending support for wind power ‘overnight’.

Figures obtained by the WMN in July showed that successful appeals in favour of developers in Devon and Cornwall had already dropped from 75 per cent to 27 per cent after guidance was changed under the coalition in 2013 – the so-called ‘Pickles effect’.

But since June, when the Government scrapped subsidies and imposed strict regulations on mast locations, not a single council refusal has been overturned.

In the six weeks since the ministerial statement, every one of the 44 appeals has been dismissed, including 11 in Devon and Cornwall.

The 500kW machine had been billed as capable of producing 1.8 million KWh of electricity a year.

It had also been predicted by the company that the turbine would generate equivalent electricity to that consumed by about 381 Torridge houses annually.

In dismissing the appeal, the planning officer referred to the written ministerial statement (WMS) from June.

Neil Pope said the scheme had not fulfilled one of the key requirements under the new rules, that schemes are shown to have public backing.

“There were numerous objections to the proposal at application and appeal stage from some members of the local community including objections from some Parish Councils,” he added.

“Whilst I note the arguments made on behalf of the appellant regarding the efforts to address these concerns, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the appeal scheme would satisfy these concerns and has the backing of the local community.

“Notwithstanding my findings above, it is clear to me that a substantial body of local opinion remains strongly opposed to the scheme. An approval would be at odds with the objective of the WMS.”

Mr Pope said when “weighing the harm” to the character and appearance of the area, the “planning balance tips towards an approval”.

However, taking into account the 2015 WMS is “an important material consideration that must also be weighed in the balance”, Mr Pope added.

“The conflict with this WMS leads me to find that the appeal should not be determined in accordance with the general thrust of the development plan and it outweighs the presumption in favour of sustainable development. Permission should therefore be withheld.”