The following letter was sent by our Chairman to Marion Playle, Head of Planning, Economy and Community.
WDBC Renewable Energy Strategy/ Appeal 12/2186865
MABRAKE is an organisation concerned about environmental issues in the parishes of Milton Abbot, Bradstone, Kelly and the surrounding areas. We have over 80 supporters in these parishes. For over two years now we have urging through various means (letters to executives, planning meetings, local councillors, local press) that WDBC adopt a comprehensive policy on Renewable Energy installations to prevent the spreading ‘industrialisation’ of the countryside and spoiling the unique landscape of West Devon. The CS Strategy Policy 3 is clearly completely inadequate in the face of an increasing number of applications for large solar farms and Wind Turbines. Unfortunately for what-ever reason your department seems unwilling to produce a strategic plan to limit the positioning and number of these installations. You quite properly have a plan for housing and industrial development but no such plan for the RE installations which have a similar impact on the countryside. In the meantime the number of applications and application proposals increase alarmingly. Now English Heritage in their response to application 00063/2013 have called on WDBC to produce a ‘wider strategy’ for renewable energy before you approve more installations.
Within a few miles of Milton Abbot we now have one solar farm installed, one on which an appeal has been allowed (12/2186865) and two in scoping, a total of over 60 acres. We have approved applications for two turbines, another 77m turbine installed and three other turbines of this size the subject of current applications. Many of these installations will be visible from Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor and from the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. They are all also situated close to residential and historic buildings. Like some parts of Cornwall and Torridge we are in danger of being overwhelmed with applications which will have a devastating effect on our countryside.
The responses in the decision on appeal 12/2186865 indicates what those of us who are trying to protect the countryside are concerned about. I would like to draw your attention to a number of points from the document:
- ‘The most relevant policy to the determination of this appeal is CS3’ – we believe that CS3 is totally inadequate, it does not specify minimum distance from buildings, number of installations in any one area, recommended areas for installations etc.
- ‘the scheme would generate additional income for the owner of Tredown Farm’…’These economic benefits are also important considerations to be weighed in the balance’. The inspector quite wrongly in our view seems to think the economic benefits to the landowner are more important than the impact on the countryside and the detrimental impact that will have on tourism.
- He says: ‘The scale and form of the panels would not be typical of the landscape and these rather utilitarian structures would detract from the largely unspoilt character of the site and surroundings’. ‘the development would diminish the contextual appreciation of these heritage assets.’ Yet he stills recommends approval despite this impact on the landscape and the historic buildings.
- ‘this would not become a landscape where renewable energy schemes were a defining characteristic’. We believe that because there is no WDBC policy restricting these schemes that this application and the others being processed will mean that the renewable energy installations will become a defining characteristic of the landscape.
- The scheme ‘would have the capacity to generate up to 1.5MW’. As usual in these applications the inspector and planning officers just quote the capacity numbers provided by the applicant (which is always the maximum potential output). A level that will never be achieved over an extended period – there is never an attempt to judge the application on average expected output. As shown by studies RE installations have continuously failed to produce the outputs predicted.
I quote the passages from the appeal decision for two reasons. Firstly I think that WDBC should raise objections with the planning inspector on some of the points he raises above (particularly point 2. Secondly it points again to the great urgency for WDBC to adopt a new comprehensive policy for RE installations.
I would emphasise again, (as we have done in previous communications) that we agree that renewable energy is important and want to play our part in our area – we were pleased to support the Sherill Farm installation, which was modest scale and sensitive to the environment.
To summarize I urge you once again to adopt a much more detailed and comprehensive strategy to restrict these large RE installations before our unique West Devon countryside is destroyed by their increasing numbers.