Councillors accused of ignorance in wind turbine planning row

Councillors have been branded ‘ignorant’ after going against the advice of their own planners and refusing an application for a wind turbine.

Hugh Pode was seeking to erect a small-scale wind turbine on land at Riley Bank Farm, his home near Frodsham, Cheshire.

A detailed application and supporting evidence was prepared by planning consultant Christopher Monckton aided by leading North West renewable energy company Eco Environments.

This was then recommended for approval by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning department, which is vastly experienced in dealing with similar applications.

In its report recommending approval, planners stated: “The proposed erection of one wind turbine on a 15 metre mast is considered to be of an acceptable design and will not have any unacceptable detrimental impact on neighbouring residential amenity. The merits of the proposal have been assessed and it is clear that the very special circumstances of the site and the proposal outweigh any harm by inappropriateness in the Green Belt.”

Following extensive discussions, planners were satisfied on a number of key points including visual and landscape impact, the siting within Green Belt land and noise levels.

However, when the application was considered by the council’s planning committee last week it was voted down after a ten-minute outburst by Frodsham Mayor Councillor Andrew Dawson, who bizarrely compared Mr Pode’s 6kW Proven Energy wind turbine with plans by Peel Energy for a wind farm on Frodsham marshes.

No other councillor spoke in the debate and Mr Monckton was restricted to a mere three minutes to put his case across. The vote was eight opposed to the application, two in favour and a single abstention.

David Hunt, a director with Eco Environments, said: “We have encountered many frustrating examples of councillors refusing permission for domestic wind turbines, but this one in Frodsham is in a totally different league.

“It seems that the application was turned down because of a single councillor’s extraordinary ignorance and desire to stand in the way of progress.

“The planning process had been painstaking and Christopher Monckton had answered fully a number of questions asked by the planners, but it appears that months of detailed reporting counted for nothing when Councillor Dawson rose to his feet.

“I cannot comprehend how Cllr Dawson could even begin to link a single small-scale domestic wind turbine on someone’s land with a fully fledged commercial wind farm on Frodsham marshes.”

Christopher Monckton, who runs Christopher Monckton Associates, said: “We met all the conditions of the planning application and the processes followed by the planning department were exemplary.

“We went out of our way to ensure that every concern was answered fully.

“We will be appealing to the planning inspectorate and are extremely confident that the decision to refuse will be overturned.”

The introduction of the Government’s Feed-in-Tariff scheme in April last year was intended to hasten the number of homeowners and businesses considering installing turbines. FiTs has quite simply transformed the renewable energy industry in the UK. Customers are paid for every kilowatt hour of electricity their system produces irrespective of whether they use it or not as well as being paid for electricity sold back to the Grid.

However, the incentivisation has failed to deliver the expected results because local authorities have allowed a massive logjam of wind turbine applications to build up. There is believed to be as much as a full year’s worth of wind turbines stuck in the planning process.

David Hunt added: “The biggest problem is the total lack of a consistent approach from councils across the UK. There are a handful of councils who have a strong green agenda and are happy to support Government initiatives, but the majority are still stuck in the dark ages.

“While it is good that the Government is seemingly supporting the green economy, support is no longer enough. Ministers now need to ensure that their words are backed up by the strongest possible actions to ensure that their policies are being implemented effectively and consistently on the ground.

“We have a number of customers whose applications for small scale wind turbines are stuck in planning and we know of hundreds more across the UK in a similar position.”