At the meeting on Thursday 30th June, South Northants Council’s Development Control Committee resolved unanimously to refuse planning permission for five 125 metre high wind turbines between Helmdon, Greatworth and Sulgrave. The hamlet of Stuchbury would be in the middle of this triangle, right alongside the proposed site with turbines very close indeed to properties such as Stuchbury Hall Farm.
Before the resolution was put to the meeting, Parish Council Chairman Graham Roberts addressed the committee on behalf of Sulgrave. He reminded the Councillors that they had committed themselves to “…..preserving what is special about the district and ensuring that this exceptional heritage is recognised, valued, enhanced, and explained..”
He said that in the internationally renowned Sulgrave Manor, the Castle Hill Scheduled Ancient Monument and St James Church, the village had three very important heritage assets which attracted many visitors whose appreciation of the village as an ideal setting for these assets would be completely ruined if the turbines were erected.
He pointed out that the applicant, Broadview Energy Limited, had been asked to liaise with the Parish Council in respect of the choice of viewpoints for photo montages demonstrating the probable impact of the turbines on the village. This they had failed to do and so alternative photo montages prepared for the Parish Council had been submitted with the Council’s letter of objection. Two of these were projected for the benefit of Committee Members, as follows:
He concluded by saying that the turbines would represent an unacceptable and intrusive feature on the landscape and would significantly impact on the setting of Sulgrave Conservation Village its Listed Buildings, other heritage assets and public open spaces. For this reason, as well as the six others set out in the planning officer’s report he requested the Committee to refuse the application.
The Committee was also addressed by the Chairmen of Greatworth and Helmdon Parish Councils, Keith Jones the Chairman of Helmdon, Stuchbury and Greatworth Windfarm Action Group and a representative of Broadview Energy Limited.
Members of the Development Control Committee then voiced their concerns in respect of the proposal, highlighting the quality of the local landscape and the devastating impact that the five alien structures would have upon it.
The resolution to accept the planning officer’s recommendations was then carried unanimously and the application was refused for the following basic reasons (see here for the complete officer’s report containing the reasons in full):
1. The proposed wind turbine scheme, by virtue of its size, height and extent would adversely affect the historic environment over a wide geographical area by introducing intrusive and standardised industrial forms into what is currently an unspoilt rural landscape setting. The settings of a large number of heritage assets will be harmed; in particular Scheduled Ancient Monuments at Sulgrave and Helmdon, Listed Buildings (all grades) and Registered Parks and Gardens at Stowe, Sulgrave, Helmdon, Canons Ashby, Greatworth, Marston Hill and Stuchbury (undesignated asset), and the development will have a dominating impact upon the setting of and views from a number of Conservation Areas, particularly at Sulgrave.
2. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the Local Planning Authority cannot be satisfied that the landscape and visual impact arising from the development has been satisfactorily addressed and that the proposal would not have a serious and harmful impact on the visual amenity and character of the locality. The Local Planning Authority considers that the development by reason of its scale and siting would appear prominent and incongruous in its rural setting and would have an adverse impact on the highly valued character and appearance of the countryside in what is a gently rolling, tranquil, agricultural landscape. There would be a particularly adverse, significant and detrimental visual effect on the residential occupiers in the settlements of Greatworth, Helmdon, Sulgrave and Stuchbury and in close proximity to the site.
3. The Local Planning Authority considers that the submitted noise impact assessment for the proposed development has failed to clearly demonstrate that there would not be injurious effects on the residential amenity of nearby properties in terms of noise disturbance from the proposed turbines.
4. Insufficient survey information has been provided to demonstrate that the development will not have unacceptably adverse impacts on protected and other species or their habitat, namely bats, or to provide a satisfactory mitigation strategy and an appropriate mechanism for its delivery.
5. The proposed wind turbines would by reason of their height, scale and location be perceived by walkers, cyclists and horses and riders, as having an adverse effect on their outlook and safety, on what is a well-used and valued public rights of way network.
6. In the absence of any proposal or acceptance by the applicant of the need to provide a dedicated public viewing area within the site during construction, and for a period of at least 6-12 months after commencement of operation of the turbines, the development would be likely to result in motorists stopping and manoeuvring within the highway, to the detriment of highway safety.
Broadview Energy Limited can appeal against this decision and if they do so a public inquiry will be held before a government inspector who will consider all of the evidence for and against the proposal before deciding whether to allow or dismiss the appeal. Should an appeal be lodged in the next day or so it is likely that the public inquiry would take place in the autumn.
Keith Jones, Chairman of the Helmdon Stuchbury and Greatworth Windfarm Action group welcomed the Committee’s decision. He paid tribute to the team of volunteers who had worked tirelessly to help bring it about. The action group will continue with its activities, not least the raising of the substantial sums of money necessary to retain for the public inquiry the first class team of lawyers and professionals whose advice had played a large part in the success of the campaign so far.
Those wishing to help to ensure the continuation of this success can do so by accessing the action group’s website at http://www.hsgwag.co.uk/Supportus.html