United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Seven planning refusals in a month

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Hopes that the tide of planning decisions may be turning in favour of wind farms have proven to be premature after seven wind schemes were refused in little more than one month:

o Two were turned down in north Wales, both at a single meeting of Conwy County Council in June. National Wind Power's plan for 28, 1.5 MW turbines on Denbigh Moors at Pentrefoelas was narrowly rejected by 20 votes to 19 against the planning officer's recommendation. The scheme had commanded strong support from the community, says NWP's Peter Hinson, but opposition was fierce from urban councillors representing north Wales coastal towns. "It was partly rural versus town issues that drove this decision," he says. NWP is considering an appeal or another application for a project on the same site large enough to be decided at Department of Trade and Industry level. Alternatively the company may just await a more favourable climate for renewable projects in Wales under anticipated new policies. A second NWP proposal for the same area -- three turbines at Betws yn Rhos near Colwyn Bay -- was turned down in less than one minute by Conwy councillors. Huw Smallwood from developer DJ Construction calls the result "unbelievable". He adds: "I have never seen anything like it. We had to wait a year to get to that stage, and then we had the great honour of the full council giving us a mere 60 seconds of their time." DJ Construction will fight on. "We are actively pursuing seven other projects and are determined to get as many schemes built as we can."

o The result of a planning inquiry into three wind farms at Helmsdale on the north-east coast of Scotland was issued after an application process lasting nearly five years. In 1995 Highland Regional Council approved two wind farms -- 12 MW at West Garty proposed by M&N Wind Power and a 10 MW project by Renewable Energy Systems (RES) at Gartymore. These, however, were called in by the Secretary of State for Scotland. The resulting inquiry in 1997 also examined Borderwind's application for an 8 MW wind farm at nearby Craikaig. Nearly two years later at the end of July, the Scottish Executive administered the final coup de grace by refusing all three applications. The decision is causing M&N to rethink, says the company's Bruce Woodman. "We have projects in Scotland amounting to a further 46 MW at the pre-design stage, but I'm afraid that today's decision calls into question whether we can afford the time and investment," he says. At RES Chris Shears says the result, after such a long wait, is "not unexpected". Every proposed wind farm that has gone to public inquiry in Scotland has been turned down. "Nonetheless, we felt this was an excellent wind farm proposal -- the sort of scheme that will have to be built if the country is get anywhere near the government's targets for renewable energy."

o RES received a further setback in the East Riding of Yorkshire when its application for a 13 MW wind farm at Hollym, Holderness was soundly defeated by a majority of 16 votes to one. East Riding also turned down PowerGen Renewables' application for seven 1.3 MW machines at Out Newton by the same margin. Both were refused due to the size, scale and visual dominance of the turbines in relatively flat coastal landscape. The East Riding councillors' conclusion that the environmental benefits of both wind farms "do not outweigh the adverse visual impacts" turns on its head the received wisdom that planning consent is more likely to be forthcoming for wind projects in lowland sites of Britain. "It is just the sort of area where everybody says we should be putting turbines," says Shears of the Hollym location. Shears reports that the councillors felt that wind turbines should be sited in hilly areas where they would be less obvious. "It lays to waste the argument that lowland sites are less sensitive than upland sites." Government's energy policy for meeting greenhouse gas reduction commitments is not being adhered to, he says. "These planning decisions are another indication that local authorities have not got the message that we need more renewables," adds Shears. "It demonstrates a requirement for the DETR [Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions] to make it abundantly clear to local authorities that as well as talking about these sorts of schemes, they should be happening on the ground."

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