The secretary of state for Energy and Climate change rejected a recommendation from an inspector that a development consent order under the Planning Act 2008 should be issued in respect of 27 turbines with a total generating capacity of 89MW to be sited in Powys, east of Aberystwyth, after concluding that the applicant had failed to demonstrate that there would be no adverse impact on a special protection area (SPA), important in part because of its potential habitat for red kites.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) expressed concern about the possible impact of the turbines as a result of the birds colliding with the rotating blades. NRW questioned whether surveys undertaken on behalf of the applicant followed best practice and it disagreed with the suggestion that the importance of the SPA was not due to the presence of red kites within the designated area. The applicant in response stated that nesting surveys demonstrated that none of the birds nested in the SPA nor within a six kilometre buffer zone, the latter criticised by NRW who asserted that a 10-kilometre area should be used for assessing if any significant effects under the habitats regulations would arise and if so, the means by which they could be mitigated.
The secretary of state acknowledged that the applicant proposed mitigation to reduce the risk of collisions by making the area under and around the turbines less attractive to the birds. But there was no certainty that this would reduce the risk to an acceptable level. The secretary of state confirmed that she had undertaken a habitats regulations assessment and the risk of red kites colliding with the turbines could not be ruled out. In the absence of any quantification of the reduction in collisions due to the proposed mitigation, she held that the scheme was likely to have an adverse impact on the SPA. The secretary of state also considered the potential impact on five special areas of conservation and determined that the impact of the proposed grid connection could have an impact on four of them.
In view of her conclusions the secretary of state did not feel it necessary to comment on landscape and heritage impacts associated with the scheme. She could only grant consent where no adverse impact on the integrity of a site of European biodiversity importance was predicted, as required under regulation 61(5) of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. In the absence of a full assessment of the effects it was not appropriate for her to consider if the scheme was in the overriding public interest and the application was rejected.
Inspector: Philip Asquith; Examination
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