‘STOP’ Team* working on the side of the residents against the two wind farm developers, and each developer defending their position but going out of their way to rubbish the other. (*STOP is the Spaldington Turbine Opposition Project with its own barrister and expert witnesses all funded by the community)
Week one saw the opening exchanges with the Council’s expert landscape witness, the landscape witness employed by STOP, and the expert witnesses employed by the two developers taking the stand. They all presented evidence and were cross examined by the four barristers, with each trying to score points against the other. There is certainly an interesting atmosphere between the two appellant teams and their barristers, Mr David Hardy representing Falck Renewables and Mr Jeremy Pike representing Volkswind.
The evidence provided can come across as rather complicated and extremely detailed as it focuses on degrees of potential impact on the landscape, and how the landscape can be defined and compared with other areas. It also goes very deep into the potential theoretical impact on individual residences, the distances of turbines from the houses, likely views from different windows, and from what angle turbines are expected to be seen. There are photomontages provided by all parties showing views from near and far, from house windows and from gardens, from roads and footpaths. These are then challenged by the other parties for accuracy and consistency. Interestingly the most widely used and referred to photographs are the aerial shots provided by STOP, these taken from a helicopter hovering at the tip height of each of the 12 planned turbines. This being the first time this type of photograph has been used at any wind farm inquiry in the East Riding.
There are many references to planning inspector’s decisions at previous wind farm inquiries, and paragraphs from those decision documents quoted by all sides by the barristers and witnesses to back up their positions. However it has been frequently stated in the proceedings the the inspector will come to his own conclusions.
The Inquiry also saw 4 witnesses from Spaldington take the stand to give evidence and undergo varying degrees of cross examination; these included Parish Council Chair Kath Westin, local horse and rider trainer and businesswoman Janice Chadwick, Beryl Norris a medium at the Fir Tree Spiritualist Church, and local resident Ann Marie Jackson. All gave very passionate and emotional presentations, and stood up to the questioning extremely well.
As the Councillor on the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s planning committee who moved the successful refusal of both wind farms before they were appealed and therefore some would say an ‘informed member’ of the public, I think the inquiry can be interesting if somewhat tedious at times. I keep saying to myself and others that the witnesses and the barristers don’t need to impress each other, me, or the public, they only have to impress the one person – and that is the Planning Inspector sitting on his own at the top table, who will ultimately make the decision to allow or refuse the appeals.
I am to give evidence on Friday 10th June 2011 !