A GROUP of residents fighting to prevent a windfarm from being built near their homes has received a welcome Christmas present.
Energiekontor UK’s application to erect five turbines to the north of Fenrother, just south of Longhorsley, has been recommended for refusal by county council planning officers. It will be determined on Tuesday, January 8.
It has generated a lot of interest in the wider community, with 1,647 objections received by the authority. A total of 783 people have said they are in favour.
The officers believe the negatives such as the visual impact on properties and loss of openness of the area’s landscape character outweigh the positives and a number of organisations have raised concerns, including the Ministry of Defence which says it could have an impact on aviation safety and its radar at Brizlee Wood, and the National Grid as it is not happy with the proximity of the proposed turbines to High Pressure Gas Pipeline utility infrastructure.
Each turbine would be up to 126.5metres to blade tip in height. The nearest residential properties and approximate distances from the windfarm are Moor Edge (800m west), Fenrother Village (800m south), Wellbeck House (820m east), Tindal Hill (850m east), New Houses Farm (640m northeast) and properties at Fieldhead (800m northwest).
Dr James Lunn, Chairman of the Fight Fenrother and Longhorsley Windfarm Group, said: “We’re delighted with the report and hopefully the planning committee councillors will follow the recommendation.
“This would send a strong message to Energiekontor, which has caused untold upset and anger in our community and paid little attention to our concerns.
“I’m surprised by the planning officers’ strong comments and giving six solid reasons for refusal is more than we could have hoped for.
“We’re pleased that they have listened to us and analysed our points in detail.
“They have clearly said that because the turbines will be close to residential properties, their impact would be too significant to be acceptable and we would encourage the authority to develop a new policy where windfarms should be located at least 10 times the height of the turbines away from people’s homes.
“It has been great to receive so much support from people in the wider community and I would encourage those who have objected to go along to County Hall on January 8 to hear in detail why it should be refused.”
Other concerns raised by the objectors include road safety issues as drivers would be distracted, ‘ineffective’ consultation by the applicant and harm wildlife populations.
Those who wrote in support believe the turbines could be accommodated into the landscape, the proposal accords with planning policies and there would be environmental benefits through using a renewable energy source.
But in the report, which was made public just before Christmas, planning officers say: ‘The proposed development offers the opportunity for renewable energy to support local and wider demand for energy.
‘However, in this case it is considered that the benefits of renewable energy are outweighed by the significant adverse impacts on the landscape character, cumulative impact, visual amenity, residential amenity (in terms of noise and overbearing structures), archaeology and aviation safety.”
Members of the county council’s Planning and Environment Committee carried out a site visit on October 12.
A public meeting at King Edward VI School took place on November 15 after the authority agreed to a request by Coun Glen Sanderson.
Earlier this year, he put forward a motion about windfarms which called for a greater distance from homes to be imposed, the cumulative impact of the structures to be considered and the Government to slash drastically the subsidies to onshore wind turbines.
Coun Sanderson said: “I’m very pleased for the residents – it’s an early Christmas present for them. The overwhelming view is that this windfarm is the wrong development in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“About 200 people attended the public meeting and many of them expressed their views. I think this contributed to the officers’ recommendation along with the hundreds of objection letters.
“It must be rare for a windfarm of this size to be recommended for refusal and as someone who has voiced my concerns about the proliferation of them, I hope that this will herald a change of approach to future wind turbine applications.”
Energiekontor UK Project Manager Sam Dewar said: “The application has not been rejected yet and we will see what happens at the planning meeting, but if it is refused we will be considering our position before deciding what to do next.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further until I have read the report in detail.”
The meeting in County Hall will start at 6pm.