An appeal to try and allow a controversial wind farm to be erected near Week St Mary has been rejected by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.
Plans for eleven wind turbines, maximum tip height of 125 metres, were first submitted by renewable energy developer Good Energy Ltd to Cornwall Council in 2014.
As well as objections from members of the community, some neighbouring parish councils and opposition group Communities Against Rural Exploitation (CARE), the plans were refused by the local authority with the developer then appealing this decision.
The appeal involved a public inquiry, which was held in Launceston between April and May 2016 where members of the public were able to submit statements in favour of or against the proposals.
Explaining why the appeal had been refused, the Secretary of State said he agreed with the conclusion of the Planning Inspector that ‘there would be harm caused to the significance of a number of designated heritage assets’ and that the size and layout of the eleven wind turbines would be ‘an incongruous presence of significant scale’.
The Secretary of State did recognise the benefits of the wind farm in terms of renewable energy production which received ‘significant weight’ when reaching a decision.
However, Sajid Javid concluded that any benefits of the wind farm did not outweigh the negative impacts upon the landscape and local heritage assets, also recognising that the proposal did not have the backing of the local community.
Reacting to the decision, Liberal Democrat Cornwall Councillor Nicky Chopak said she was ‘chuffed to bits’, adding: “I’m really relieved more than anything else and pleased for the residents. It’s been a long wait and a lot of hard work by the objectors and CARE.”
Richard Sowerby, chairman of Communities Against Rural Exploitation, the campaign group that co-ordinated local opposition to the Big Field Wind Farm development and represented the local community at the appeal inquiry, said: “We are of course delighted that Good Energy’s Appeal of Cornwall Council’s planning refusal has been dismissed and planning permission has been refused.
“We always contended that a wind farm of such a huge scale was inappropriate in this landscape and it was detrimental to highly valued heritage assets. We are relieved for the many local residents whose lives would have been blighted by their proximity to this monstrous wind farm. We are also very grateful to the many people who gave the time, money and support that enabled us to get to this point.”
Scott Mann, Conservative MP for North Cornwall, too welcomed the decision. He said: “For many months, local residents, parish councils and I have been working together to voice all of our concerns about the impacts this wind farm would have on the beautiful North Cornwall landscape and local heritage assets.
“I have been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with local communities on this issue since I became an MP in 2015 to absolutely ensure local views are not ignored, and after a lengthy appeal process, I’m very pleased that that our concerns have been considered by both the Planning Inspectorate and the Communities Secretary who have recognised that the negative impacts of this wind farm would outweigh any benefits. I’d also like to thank Cllr Nicky Chopak for her work in opposing this wind farm on behalf of local residents.
“In 2015, the Conservative Government said it would give local communities a louder voice when it came to wind farm proposals, and the concerns of local residents in Week St Mary and surrounding communities have certainly been listened to.
“This proposal has been one of the biggest local issues to come across my desk during my time as an MP and I’m very pleased we have managed to achieve the best possible outcome for the local area and its residents.”
During the appeal process, a public inquiry was held in Launceston between April and May 2016 where members of the public could submit statements in favour or against the proposals. This included local councillors and Mr Mann, who submitted both written and oral evidence against the proposals.
Good Energy said since originally submitting the application, its ‘focus has moved away from development to sourcing our growing renewable power needs from partners. We will take some time to consider our options, but the decision has no material impact on our strategy’.
The company added in a statement: “We do, however, believe that onshore wind should be a key part of the UK’s future energy system.”
Juliet Davenport, CEO of Good Energy, said: “The government’s continuing opposition to onshore wind – the cheapest and one of the most popular forms of electricity generation – is baffling and risks condemning consumers to higher energy bills for years to come.
“The UK has some of the best wind resources in Europe – if we don’t make more use of them in the most cost-effective way, we’ll become even more reliant on fuel imports from unstable parts of the world to generate the power we need for our homes and businesses. It’s a recipe for economic uncertainty that the government itself is trying so hard to avoid in post-Brexit Britain.
“As a community-owned wind farm generating enough renewable electricity for around 22,000 average homes, the Big Field would have made a major contribution to targets for locally owned renewable generation set in Cornwall’s energy strategy. Without it, those ambitions begin to look very hard to reach.”
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