Inspector overruled on turbine harm to setting of heritage assets

The secretary of state has overruled his inspector's recommendation to allow three wind turbines out of six 126m high turbines proposed in Huntingdonshire, refusing permission for all six.

The secretary of state had regard to paragraph 007 of the Planning Guidance on Renewable and Low Carbon Energy which stated that great care should be taken to ensure heritage assets were conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance, including the impact of proposals on views important to their setting, and paragraph 019 of the same guidance, which stated that, depending on their scale, design and prominence, a wind turbine within the setting of a heritage asset might cause substantial harm to the significance of the asset

The secretary of state gave careful consideration to the inspector’s assessment of impacts on a wide range of heritage assets, which included the setting and heritage significance of various listed buildings and three conservation areas.

Although the secretary of state agreed with the inspector that the level of harm would not be substantial in the terms set out in the NPPF he held that, in accordance with s.66 of the Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Act, the preservation of setting was to be treated as a desired or sought-after objective, and considerable importance and weight attached to the desirability of preserving the setting of listed buildings when weighing this factor in the balance. The secretary of state took the view that it did not follow that if the harm to heritage assets was found to be less than substantial, then the subsequent balancing exercise undertaken by the decision-taker should ignore the overarching statutory duty imposed by section 66(1) and he therefore saw a need to give considerable weight to the desirability of preserving the setting of all listed buildings.

The secretary of state concluded that although the deletion of three of the turbines would reduce the adverse effect on the setting of the church spires and the villages the reduction in harm had been overplayed by the inspector. Having regard to the considerable weight to be accorded to any failure to preserve the setting of listed buildings, as required by S66 of the 1990 Act, the secretary of state concluded overall that the benefits of the three-turbine scheme did not outweigh the identified harm.

Inspector: Robert Mellor; Inquiry

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