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Project cancellation for aesthetic reasons sets precedent

For the first time in France a permit for a wind project has been cancelled for aesthetic reasons. The industry fears the door is now open for similar rulings. Approval for the 12 MW Fôret de Ravière project, in the Ain département of east central France, was granted by the departmental authorities in 2006, following positive outcomes of the required public inquiry and environmental impact study. The project belongs to local developer and owner-operator Enel Erelis, a subsidiary of Italy's Enel. But the permit was contested by a local authority and the Lyon administrative court has now upheld the appeal. The judge questioned the proposed location and layout of the project, saying the alignment of the eight turbines along a ridge "seriously dominates the natural landscape" and the developer had failed to prove it could not find an alternative site. Although the site is not in an area of protected landscape, the judge said it is on the edge of "a remarkable rural landscape and in an area of great environmental quality." The finding is worrying because "it is the first time that a court has said a wind power plant can damage the countryside and this could be used by other groups who want to appeal," says Benoît Seveno from the Renewable Energy Syndicate (SER), a lobby group. Enel Erelis says it plans to appeal the decision.

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