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Tide turns on planning permit front

Two "yes" votes are fuelling wind industry hopes that the tide has turned in wind's favour on the planning permit front. At Cemmaes in Powys, the Welsh Office has granted Westbury Windfarms permission for a six turbine extension to an existing 24 turbine wind farm of Wind Energy Group (WEG) MS-3 machines. The decision is the result of a surprise public inquiry in July 1998, held despite the fact that local councillors had approved the project. Since then, both WEG and the wind farm have changed hands and the MS-3 is no longer in production. WEG was taken over by NEG Micon of Denmark and Cemmaes was bought by Westbury Windfarms -- a joint venture owned by Foras Energy AS of Denmark and International Wind Projects Ltd. "We are very pleased we received planning permission, and now we are going to sit down with our board to decide what we are going to do," is all Westbury's Robert Clingen Smith will say. Meanwhile in Cumbria, a planning inspector has accepted the arguments of the wind lobby and granted consent for a project of seven 660 kW turbines proposed by PowerGen Renewables at Lowca for an old open cast mine site. A mere three weeks after the public inquiry, the inspector dismissed the local council's claims that the contribution from the wind turbines was too small to be justified. It would contribute around 0.32% of the country's target for renewable energy, he argued. "Merely because a scheme would produce only a small fraction of total electricity needs does not in my view mean it would not be worthwhile, since if this were to be the case no small wind energy schemes would be likely to go ahead," says the inspector. "Furthermore, this position is clearly not part of the government's renewable energy strategy." A jubilant Euan Cameron from Wind Prospect, which is developing the wind farm on behalf of PowerGen Renewables, says: "The inspector agreed with all our case without exception."

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