Plans for a £30 million windfarm in North Cornwall have been crushed by the Secretary of State as an ‘alien presence which would harm the landscape’.
Under the proposal by developer Good Energy, 11 wind turbines at 125 metres tall would have been erected on farmland between Week St Mary, Jacobstow, Warbstow, North Petherwin and Whitstone, around nine miles south of Bude.
A planning application for the The Big Field Wind Farm was refused by Cornwall Council in 2014 but Wiltshire-based Good Energy appealed the decision.
Wind turbines near Truro.
Following an inquiry, which upheld the council’s decision, it came to the Secretary of State to either uphold the decision or overturn it completely and grant the project permission.
Richard Watson, on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, said: “The inspector recommended that the appeal be dismissed and planning permission refused.
“The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector’s recommendation. He has decided to dismiss the appeal and refuse planning permission.”
Had the Big Field Wind Farm proposal been approved, it would have formed part of largest renewable energy park in Cornwall.
In announcing the plans, Good Energy, which already operates Delabole wind farm, at the time listed a range of community benefits which it has put together following two fiery consultation sessions with locals.
Wind turbines near Truro
The firm said the benefits would have included a community fund worth £63,250 a year and local dual fuel and electricity tariffs to all households within 5km of the development.
But villagers opposed to the plans voiced numerous concerns including house prices, noise and visual impact.
Before the project was turned down by Cornwall Council, Juliet Davenport, founder of Good Energy, said: “We believe The Big Field Wind Farm can provide a lasting positive legacy for the environment and the local community, and we are proud to put our name to it.
“Having consulted locally for over a year, we believe this project meets all planning requirements and supports both local and national renewables targets.”
Good Energy has more than 40,000 renewable energy customers and some 5,000 domestic and business customers in the South West. The firm said the Week St Mary scheme would have generated 25.3MW of renewable energy which is enough to power around 13,500 homes.
However, while the Secretary of State agreed that “there is no good reason to cast any significant doubt on the output figures claimed by the appellant that the scheme has the potential to act as a model for other renewable energy projects and that the benefits of the scheme are extensive and weighty”, he refused to overhaul the planning inspector’s and Cornwall Council’s decision.
In his report the Secretary of State added: “The proposal would cause harm to the setting of the Westbury Barrow Scheduled Ancient Monument as well as the setting of the Ashbury Camp.
“The wind turbines proposed would be an incongruous presence of significant scale, in terms of wind turbine height and the spread of the array, in many views inland from the AONB and Heritage Coast.
“This alien presence would harm the Area of Natural Beauty itself and the Heritage Coast.”
Scott Mann, MP for North Cornwall, welcomed the decision saying: “I’m very pleased by this decision today.
“For many months, local residents, parish councils and I have been working together to voice all of our concerns about the impacts this wind farm would have on the beautiful North Cornwall landscape and local heritage assets.
“I have been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with local communities on this issue since I became an MP in 2015 to absolutely ensure local views are not ignored, and after a lengthy appeal process, I’m very pleased that that our concerns have been considered by both the Planning Inspectorate and the Communities Secretary who have recognised that the negative impacts of this wind farm would outweigh any benefits.”
Juliet Davenport, CEO of Good Energy, said the decision had no material impact on the company’s strategy.
She said: “We do, however, believe that onshore wind should be a key part of the UK’s future energy system. The government’s continuing opposition to onshore wind – the cheapest and one of the most popular forms of electricity generation – is baffling and risks condemning consumers to higher energy bills for years to come.
”The UK has some of the best wind resources in Europe – if we don’t make more use of them in the most cost-effective way, we’ll become even more reliant on fuel imports from unstable parts of the world to generate the power we need for our homes and businesses.
“It’s a recipe for economic uncertainty that the government itself is trying so hard to avoid in post-Brexit Britain.
“As a community-owned wind farm generating enough renewable electricity for around 22,000 average homes, the Big Field would have made a major contribution to targets for locally owned renewable generation set in Cornwall’s energy strategy. Without it, those ambitions begin to look very hard to reach.”