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End of public inquiry into controversial north Norfolk wind turbines

A government planning inspector is expecting to announce his decisions on two wind turbine applications in north Norfolk around the end of February next year.

Inspector John Braithwaite is today due to visit a number of sites which may be affected by the applications after concluding an eight-day public inquiry into the proposals yesterday.

The hearing followed North Norfolk District Council’s (NNDC) refusal of planning permission for the two schemes: a 66m turbine at Pond Farm, Bodham, submitted by Genatec; and Selbrigg Generation’s application for a structure measuring up to 78m at Selbrigg Farm, Hempstead.

During the inquiry Mr Braithwaite has heard both impassioned pleas and detailed submissions on planning policies from legal representatives, experts and members of the public from each side of the argument.

Yesterday’s closing statements centred on whether:

■ the impact of the turbines would cause substantial harm to a number of heritage assets, including Baconsthorpe Castle, and to a landscape which includes an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty;

■ the benefits of the turbines outweighed any harm caused by their impact.

NNDC’s barrister Estelle Dehon, said the applications were in the wrong place. The introduction of a “moving modern element” into the settings of parts of the AONB and in view of important heritage assets would be harmful and the council already met national requirements on renewable energy with two solar farms in the district and two solar farms off its coast, all among the largest in the country.

Referring to Baconsthorpe Castle, a grade one-listed Scheduled Ancient Monument, Ms Dehon said it was of the “highest heritage significance”. Its isolated nature contributed to all aspects of its heritage.

“The introduction of one or both of the turbines into that setting will introduce modern industrial features, which move, and thus distract the eye – repeatedly. This will…lead to a high-level harm,” she added.

David Hardy, representing Genatec, said the UK needed to meet a target of 15pc renewable energy generation by 2020. Levels currently stood at 8.3pc and the shortfall was an “important material consideration.”

He maintained that the turbine’s impact on landscape and heritage assets would not be substantially harmful and was completely reversible.

At worst, said Mr Hardy, at the end of the turbine’s 25-year lifespan, “a veil will be fully removed to reveal what was there before.”

Paul Maile, for Selbrigg Generation, argued that any harmful impact caused by the turbine was at the “low end of the range” and had to be weighed against the benefits of a proposal which met “an urgent national need”.

Campaign group NOTT – No To That Turbine – submitted strong objections to the Bodham turbine.

The Bodham application has attracted 977 objections and the Selbrigg proposal 632.

■ An earlier application by Genatec for a 86.5m-tall turbine was rejected by NNDC in 2012, approved by a planning inspector on appeal but that decision was overturned in the High Court in February 2014.