Wind farm allowed in finely balanced case

A wind farm comprising ten turbines has been granted permission on the Essex coast on the basis that its impact on the landscape and a listed church would fall within acceptable limits.

The inspector noted that planning policies for the East of England seek to achieve 14 per cent of electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2010. For onshore wind energy the target is 647MW of installed capacity. By the end of last year fewer than 50MW had been installed and no wind farms had been built in Essex. He considered it imperative that schemes were brought forward quickly in order to meet the targets.

In assessing the turbines' impact, he accepted that some people would be offended by their presence in a remote area. However, he recognised that not all of the population shares this view and cited evidence that opinions can change positively after turbines are constructed.

The argument advanced by the council and others that wind turbines were objectionable in principle given the remoteness and character of the area was untenable and too simplistic, he ruled. He agreed that the wind farm would lead to a marked visual change in the immediate area but found that this would decline with distance.

A listed chapel dating from the seventh century and sitting on top of a Roman fort formed only a small part of the overall landscape, the inspector decided. He did not accept that the scheme would undermine the site's historic association with the seashore or wider area. In his opinion, it would not change the feeling of intimacy and spirituality associated with the chapel.

Finally, he noted that the turbines would be in line of sight of the primary radar station at London Southend Airport. The evidence did not indicate a real risk of aircraft straying into the clutter caused by the turbines on the airport's radar, he judged. The likelihood of aircraft being temporarily lost to air traffic controllers was limited, he found. He added that the airport was primarily used by light aircraft and helicopters and the position of the wind farm would be well-known to regular fliers.

DCS Number 100-050-321

Inspector Philip Major; Inquiry.

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