Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wind Farm Imposed on Howdenshire Village of Spaldington by Government Planning Inspector (but it could have been worse)

The Government’s Planning Inspector has published his decision on the appeals for the two wind farm proposals, one at each side of the small village of Spaldington. His decision is to allow the 5 turbine Spaldington Airfield application to the west of the village but to throw out the 7 turbine Spaldington Common application to the east.

I have worked very closely with the Spaldington residents and the STOP team since the ERYC Planning Committee’s decision to refuse these applications, knowing that the developers would certainly appeal the decisions. I know the residents team well, and having spoken to some of them today I realise just how deflated and devastated they feel, but this is tempered by winning one of them.

It is common for a community to stand up to fight the imposition of one large wind farm next to their village, but very unusual for them to have to fight two at the same time. In many ways this is a hollow victory and many Spaldington residents will be fearful of the future as their properties are overshadowed by some of the highest onshore wind turbines in the country within 750m. Much, much closer than we see at the only constructed similar size wind farm at Lisset.

It is ironic that within a handful of miles of Spaldington, turbines could be constructed far enough away from properties so as not to have a negative impact on them. This is mainly a result of those land owners not being willing to sell to the wind farm companies. What is perfectly clear is that more effort has to be made by developers and particularly the East Riding of Yorkshire Council to make sure appropriate sites are selected and not on the basis that a landowner is willing.

The Council’s Planning Committee come out of this very well in the way they made their decisions to refuse both applications, unfortunately the same cannot be said of the Council’s Planning Department, who had recommended approval on both applications and the flawed evidence put forward by the Council’s team as detailed in the inspectors findings. I really hope the Council’s Planning Department Officers now take a very close look at the inspector’s decision, particularly regarding proximity and specifically when he says, “In relation to the Common scheme, I have found that the proposal would result in unacceptable harm to the living conditions of nearby residents through being dominant and overbearing and noise disturbance”. For far too long I have been saying that a line has to be drawn in the sand when it comes to the proximity of large wind turbines to houses, and to read a Planning Inspector agree in many ways vindicates my position.

The Inspector also makes reference to the Council’s Interim Planning Document (IPD) on Renewable Energy when he says, “Although the IPD has been the subject of public consultation, given the absence of an adopted Development Plan Document and the apparent conflict with national guidance, I attach limited weight to the IPD”. Again this was something I raised in my motion to the ERYC Full Council on 13th October 2010 - but very little has subsequently been done, again I feel somewhat vindicated by the Planning Inspector’s comments.

In addition the Planning Inspector rightly criticises the key photographic evidence, drawings and measurements provided as evidence by the Council when he says “Whilst not all of the criticisms made by the appellants were accepted the Local Planning Authority (the Council) did acknowledge that, as submitted, all of the viewing distances and angles of view quoted were incorrect”. This is something that really should not happen.

On a positive note, we now have the line drawn in the sand regarding proximity distances from residences; we now know what is acceptable and what is not. It is important that this is built into a revised policy on renewable energy which I called for last year and is now needed following the Inspectors remarks.

This may be too late for some villages in the East Riding of Yorkshire, but will no doubt benefit many in the future, and developers will now have to consider this when submitting wind farm applications. I would like to recognise the STOP team of residents, expert witnesses and their Barrister – without which I am absolutely convinced the Spaldington Common wind farm would not have been thrown out. The work they have done will benefit the wider East Riding, and for that I am very proud.

The inspector’s conclusions are as follows:

In relation to the Airfield scheme, I have concluded that the proposal would not have an unacceptable impact on living conditions, landscape character, public visual amenity, ecology and the operation of Breighton Aerodrome. Whilst there would be some harm to the setting of Howden Minster, I consider that harm is outweighed by the significant weight to be attached to the need for renewable energy and benefits of the scheme. Accordingly, I conclude that, subject to the imposition of appropriate planning conditions and the relevant provisions of the S106 UU, this proposal would not conflict with the objectives of development plan and national policy. Accordingly, I allow the appeal.

In relation to the Common scheme, I have found that the proposal would result in unacceptable harm to the living conditions of nearby residents through being dominant and overbearing and noise disturbance and some harm to the setting of Howden Minster. Notwithstanding my positive conclusions in relation to landscape character, public visual amenity, ecology and aviation matters, I consider the harm is not outweighed by the benefits of the scheme or the need to meet regional targets for the provision of renewable energy. Moreover, this harm would not be acceptably mitigated by imposing planning conditions. Accordingly, I conclude that this proposal would conflict with the objectives of development plan and national policy. Accordingly, I dismiss the appeal.


Anonymous said...

The problem here is inaction by the Council's officers which has now left the East Riding bereft of any credible planning policy on turbines. Without political leadership officers default to waiting to be instructed by Whitehall.
They are still sitting around waiting for Government diktats which are not going to come . ERYC has not grasped the fact the it is up to them to set out what is acceptable locally and if they fail to do this then there is a presumption in favour of development. The direction was quite clear from day one of this Government. Cllr Paul Robinson and a few others pointed out that the writing was on the wall and tried to get proper policy in place. Instead Portfolio holders joined officers in pressing planning members cave in on all renewable energy applications for fear of losing costs. The people of the East Riding have been let down by capitulation, incompetence, complacency and the complete dereliction of political leadership. Well done Paul a shame that there are not more such as you with the intelligence to see what needs to be done and leading by example.

Anonymous said...

It really does underline the P-P-Performance of ERYC planning department (and others) in all their areas of influence. A deep and meaningful clearing out of the dead wood is long overdue. The residents are let down over control of composting, the Newport tip, etc. It seems only the little guys get chased and even some of them abuse the system (or lack of).
The lack of credible control of Section 106 contribution collection can be seen everywhere you look and benefits lost to the affected local communities when construction companies vanish with the cash before paying their dues.

Peter J Ainscough said...

I don't often have sympathy with the ERYC officers but on this occasion I believe they are between a rock and a hard place. How many applications for turbines have been turned down by ERYC on officer recommendations only to founder when it comes to an appeal. The legal costs for the council must be horrific.
However my real sympathies are with the Spaldington residents - I just wonder who is next. When are we going to see a properly structured policy and strategy with an indication of which areas of East Riding should be protected from Turbines and the reasons for that protection? This case by case approach is frighteningly flawed.