Pickles backs Nottinghamshire wind turbines despite heritage concerns

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has allowed an appeal against a council's refusal of plans for three wind turbines on agricultural land near Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire, despite concluding that the plans do 'not sit comfortably' with local planning policy.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark (pic Grant Cherrington via Flickr)
St Mary Magdalene, Newark (pic Grant Cherrington via Flickr)

Developer Bolsterstone Innovative Energy had appealed against Newark and Sherwood District Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for the erection of three wind turbines and associated infrastructure on the site to the east of Hawton.

The council’s concerns focused on the development’s impact on local heritage assets, including harm to the settings of two listed churches.

A decision letter issued on behalf of Pickles said that the secretary of state agreed with a planning inspector’s ruling that the appeal should be allowed.

The letter said Pickles had taken into consideration the 2014 Court of Appeal judgement issued on the case of Barnwell Manor Wind Energy Limited v E Northamptonshire District Council and others.

In this case, judges ruled that once the decision-maker finds some harm to a heritage asset, that harm should be given "considerable weight", creating a "strong presumption" against the grant of planning permission.

Pickles agreed with the Inspector that "the desirable objective of preserving the setting of St Mary Magdalene, Newark would be achieved if the proposed development was permitted".

It added that, in terms of All Saints Church, Hawton, he agreed "that its setting would not be preserved, and as such the desirability of preserving the setting is a matter of considerable importance and weight, and must form part of the planning balance".

But it added: "As the harm is less than substantial, however, he concludes that it must be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal".

The letter said "public benefits provided by the proposed development in terms of generating renewable energy outweigh the impact of the proposal on the setting of Hawton Church".

The letter also said that the secretary of state agreed with the inspector that "while there would be significant visual impact from the turbines when seen close to, there is no landscape or visual harm which would justify withholding planning permission".

However, it added, the secretary of state agreed that "some weight should be attached to this visual harm, and that the development does not sit comfortably within the uses accepted in the countryside in Local Plan Policy NE1 and SC Spatial Policy 3 Rural Areas".

The letter concluded that the proposed development would not be in "strict accordance with the development plan".

However, the letter said the secretary of state concluded that "the factors which weigh in favour of the proposed development outweigh its shortcomings and the conflict identified with the development plan and national policy.

"The secretary of state concludes that, while having special regard to the desirability of preserving the setting of Hawton Church, Newark, on balance the benefits [of the scheme] outweigh the harm identified to the listed buildings, and the other harms set out above".

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