Test Case Lowland Post #NPPF Windfarms Permitted
Two nearby windfarms in Northwest Norfolk have been permitted after a c0 joined appeal.
The decision letter is here
At the close of the Inquiry the Barrister for one of the appeals marked it out as a test case as Barrister Jeremy Pike said
“If a wind farm is not acceptable at Chiplow, then no wind farm can be considered acceptable anywhere in lowland England. It really is, with respect, as simple as that,”
The inspector on rgional targets concluded
EEP Policy ENG2 sets targets for on-shore renewable energy to meet 10% of the region’s energy by 2010 and 17% by 2020 (subject to meeting international obligations to protect wildlife including migratory birds). This reflects on-going national targets for the provision of renewable energy (which can only be met by local delivery). They are objectively
assessed needs in the terms of paragraph 14 of the National Planning Policy Framework. Whilst the regional targets themselves may go as and when the Plan is revoked, the need to develop renewable energy will not disappear. The evidence base that underpinned the EEP targets can remain relevant, as the Government confirmed when it first proposed the abolition of regional plans in 20101.
A 2003 landscape character assessment stated that both sites had a ‘high’ capacity to accommodate a ‘small scale’ turbine group.
The inspoector concluded
The identified landscape and visual harm would be real but not as extensive as some have suggested. It needs to be weighed with any benefits of the developments
On the issue of impact on heritage assets the inspector leaves in a few stray references to PPS5 but this makes little difference as he acknowledges that the policy on the setting of heritage assets is substantially the same in the NPPF. They concluded that here would be a moderate but less than substantial adverse effect on the setting of an ancient monument hillfort 2.5-4.5km away.
Regarding the impact on Houghton Park
the few points within the park at which the Chiplow turbine blades might be seen, they would distract attention away from what is otherwise a complete and substantially unchanged 18th century park.
As the setting is so original and intact, any modern intrusion into the setting would risk some harm to the park’s setting and heritage significance. However that harm to significance would be minor and not substantial as the turbines would only be visible from some parts of the park (particularly in summer when the park is open to visitors and the trees are in leaf), would not intrude on any important planned or open vista, and would appear as relatively small features at this distance.
There was considerable debate about collisions with Pink Footed Geese, a natura protected species which migrate to a nearby SPA. Indeed local protesters had dressed up as these Geese. The number of anticipated collisions was around the 1-2% mortality rate of significance however a novel mitigation scheme involving rotated sugar beet was proposed. The inspector crucially concluded that the scheme met the Waddensee test, but it was unclear from the decision letter if this was before or after mitigation.
The core strategy was recently adopted and the inpector balenced its policies on renewable energy and local landscape.
I conclude here on the evidence before me that the benefits of both appeal schemes clearly outweigh the individual and cumulative identified harm.In the terms of the local Core Strategy Policy CS08 the locational and other impacts are thus not unacceptable as they are here outweighed by wider environmental and economic benefits. Similarly the public benefits here outweigh the modest loss of interest or significance of environmental assets in the terms of local Core Strategy Policy CS12 and the National Planning Policy Framework (as carried forward from the previous PPS5 Policy HE.10). Both appeal proposals are therefore in overall accord with the local development plan and with regional and national policy. The Framework urges at paragraph 14 that, for decision-taking, the Framework’s presumption in favour of sustainable development means that development proposals that accord with the development plan should be approved without delay.