New policy prompts wind farm reversal
Campaigners say the latest reversal of a council attempt to block a wind turbine in one of Devon's most heavily affected areas is "dispiriting and demoralising".
A planning inspector has overturned the decision by councillors to refuse planning permission for a single turbine measuring 113ft (34.5m) from base to blade tip, at Henscott Farm, Bradworthy.
The inspector this week dismissed local opposition to the effect the tower would have on the landscape, concluding this was outweighed by the benefits of renewable energy.
The ruling is yet another costly defeat for Torridge district council, which is yet to defend a single refusal by its committee of a wind turbine.
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It has prompted further criticism for the Government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and its presumption in favour of sustainable development.
Penny Mills, spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in Torridge district said the decision was "depressing" but vowed to fight against the proliferation of turbines.
"Local opinion appears to count for nothing as the inspectors are approving them all, driven by the Government," she added.
"We do wonder what is the point of carrying on but I think you have got to stick up for what you believe in and fight to protect the lovely countryside – it is so important because this area is being ruined and we feel there is a cumulative effect."
Concern in the area last week prompted Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon Geoffrey Cox to declare a blanket policy of objecting against each and every new commercial turbine scheme.
Mr Cox said a surge in applications had pushed parts of the countryside to "tipping point".
The CPRE calculates there are already 43 approved single turbines locally, 20 schemes in planning and dozens more in the pipeline subject to scoping exercises.
Developer and farmer Mark Elliot appealed against Torridge's refusal of his plans, which were submitted in March last year and turned down in September.
Planning inspector Wendy Burden said under the NPPF, turbines must be approved unless any adverse impacts "significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits".
This scheme, she went on, would have the benefit of "providing energy to meet the needs of Henscott Farm, thus helping the business to reduce its carbon footprint and to diversify in accord with Government policy".
In a decision dated March 26, she said that "significant" local opposition could not be considered "on the basis of a count of those in favour compared to those against or that the level of local objections in itself should be a reason to withhold permission".
Concluding, she added: "Whilst the turbine would be visible from a number of locations within the surrounding area, I find that it would not be so dominant as to alter the overall experience of the landscape and its visual qualities.
"As a result it would not be in conflict with the policies of the development plan.
"Having regard to the high priority placed in Government policy on the provision of renewable energy, the appeal should be allowed."