The owners of a windfarm near the Lake District national park say they are appealing against a planning ruling to dismantle the development.
Ventient Energy said overturning the decision on the Kirkby Moor wind turbines would bring public benefits and investment in the local community.
South Lakeland District Council decided in December last year not to extend the windfarm’s planning consent to 2027. The development has operated since 1993.
Conservationists, including the Friends of the Lake District and the Open Spaces Society, had welcomed the council’s ruling, saying the turbines blighted the view from the fells of the Lake District. The national park boundary lies just a kilometre north of the windfarm.
The groups pointed out the original permission was granted by the Westminster Government, which overruled a planning inspector when consent was granted in 1992. The existing windfarm was due to be dismantled under that planning consent by August 2018.
A spokesperson for Ventient Energy said: “It was a close vote with the planning committee split almost down the middle; six members voted to refuse the application for the windfarm’s continued operation and five voting against refusal.
“The committee’s decision went against the planning officer’s recommendation for approval and there were no objections to the application from the Lake District National Park Authority and Natural England.
“Ventient Energy is seeking planning permission to continue to operate the existing windfarm. There are no proposals for new turbines or the installation of infrastructure.”
The company said a ruling in favour of the appeal would deliver many benefits to the local community.
It pledged to increase its existing community fund from the current level of £3,555 a year to annual funding of up to £24,000. A volunteer panel of local people would be formed to make decisions on funding applications with support from the Cumbria Community Foundation.
It said it would undertake moorland restoration during the life-extension period and an enhanced decommissioning, reinstatement and restoration scheme would be put in place once operations come to an end and the turbines are removed.
The community fund has already supported a number of local projects and organisations including the Grizebeck Village Hall and Kirkby-in-Furness Community Centre, it added.
Ventient Energy said Kirkby Moor windfarm has generated enough energy to power thousands of houses.
The company’s chief executive Scott Mackenzie said: “We were disappointed with South Lakeland District Council’s decision to go against the planning officer’s recommendation by narrowly voting to turn down our application to support the continued running of the existing Kirkby Moor windfarm for a few more years.
“We have decided to appeal the decision based on the many economic, social and environmental benefits the wind farm delivers to the local community and beyond.
“Kirkby Moor windfarm generates clean, green energy and supports the local community through the annual community fund, providing in-kind and financial support to the mountain rescue who use our equipment on site as well as support to the local economy.
“We strongly believe in the public benefits of the windfarm, as others do, and we hope the Planning Inspectorate allows the appeal and grants planning permission for the continued operation of the Kirkby Moor windfarm.”
As well as the South Lakeland windfarm, which lies partly on common land east of Kirkby-in-Furness, Ventient Energy operates 34 onshore windfarms across Britain. It was formed by the merger of Zephyr and Infinis Wind, and is now owned by institutional investors.
In 2017, Laura Fiske, Friends of the Lake District’s planning officer, said the council’s refusal to extent the windfarm’s life was a victory for the local communities who live in the shadow of a development imposed on them by the Government in the early 1990s. “This decision reflects the tireless effort they have put in to make their voices heard,” she said.
“In terms of both landscape and wildlife, the site at Kirkby Moor which is also a site of special scientific interest, a protected area for conservation, has never been acceptable for this type of development, and the removal of these turbines will have a net benefit to the local landscape and beyond.
“Our objections to this application were on the basis of continuing harmful impacts on the landscape and on views into and out of the Lake District; the fact that the applicant has previously stated that the turbines were at the end of their working lives, and that granting permission for a time extension would set a precedent allowing other windfarms to extend beyond their 25 year lifespans.”
In 2015, planners turned down an application to replace the 12 existing Kirkby Moor turbines with half-a-dozen 115m-high structures, double the height of those at the site.
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