Deputy premier intervenes

A proposed wind farm in south Cumbria in north west England has been given the go-ahead, but two nearby projects have been turned down by deputy prime minister John Prescott. His decision came after three public inquiries had wind plant proposals for Askam, Lowick Beacon and Gunson Height. All three projects were initially refused permits and all three prospective developers had appealed against the decision of the local authorities. The sites are within a ten mile radius and Prescott, who heads the Department of the Environment, made his decision only after all three appeals had been heard. In each case, Prescott rubber stamped the recommendations of his planning inspectors.

Wind Prospect's scheme at Askam emerges victorious. The scheme will now be built by large UK electricity generator PowerGen, which bought the rights to the project last year. As well as owning a 50% stake in the existing Haverigg wind farm, not far from Askam, PowerGen also owns Siddick and Oldside wind farms further up the coast. All were developed by the Wind Prospect team.

National Wind Power was not as fortunate with its plans for 14 turbines on Gunson Height, alongside its existing Kirby Moor wind farm. The inspector's prime objection was the visual effect of the wind farm, particularly the cumulative impact of more turbines.

Also disappointed are Yvonne and John Miller who had hoped that revenues from their planned three wind turbines at Lowick Beacon would ensure the future upkeep of Lowick Common. The Millers are among the small band of private individuals who have been successful in gaining a power purchase contract out of Britain's bureaucratic and highly competitive Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation system.

Visual impact is the main concern of inquiry inspector Gillian Grindley. She says the turbines' closeness to nearby dwellings would be overpowering. Yvonne Miller claims this has never before been raised by planners as an issue. "If it had been raised we could have provided extra evidence, and even looked at replacing the three machines with two larger ones," she says. What is more, she disputes the stated effect of the turbines on four of the six nearest properties that are some 800 metres away. "Because of the lie of the land you could not possibly see even a blade tip from them."

Miller also feels the inspector did not give sufficient consideration to the reason for installing the turbines. Accompanying their planning application, the Millers had submitted an agreement signing over all profits from the turbines to a trust fund to be set up with Cumbria Wildlife Trust for the upkeep of the 300 acre Lowick Common. Yet the inspector did not place particular weight on the argument. "Although there would be benefits to be gained from the improvements to the common, other remedies and mechanisms exist to further the work which the appellants wish to carry out," she ruled. Not so, says Miller. She claims that all attempts so far to get financial assistance to maintain the common have been unsuccessful. She accepts that Prescott's decision spells the end to all hopes of an "environmentally friendly" income, for which they had battled for four years. "We are only ordinary people trying to do some good for the world. We thought we had got a perfect solution; two ways of helping the environment. Jim and I have lost, but the world has also lost this opportunity for clean energy."