French Drove wind farm blocked by government

Land at French Farm, French Drove - site of a proposed six-turbine wind-farm.

Planning permission for an expanded wind farm at French Drove has been blocked by the government.

The rejection of the scheme by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government comes despite recommendations from Peterborough City Council and the Planning Inspector that the turbines should be built.

His decision now means it is highly likely that plans for other wind farms at Gores Farm and Willowhall will be dropped.

The principal reason for the rejection of the four turbines at French Drove was the visual impact, so it seems the Gores Farm/Willowhall wind farm, which would comprise 14 turbines, would have no chance of clearing the planning process.

Residents opposing the French Drove expansion were lucky that the planning process was interrupted by the general election and a change of policy regarding onshore wind generation.

The turbines were originally given planning permission by Peterborough City Council, but Peterborough MP, Stewart Jackson, asked for that decision to be called in by the government, which meant a full planning inquiry had to be held.

Despite the planning inspector John Braithwaite recommending approval, the change in government policy meant that minister Greg Clark was able to go against his inspector’s advice.

Energy company REG Windpower, does have planning permission for two turbines at French Farm, French Drove and has started work on those. Bases have been installed, but work stopped when they decided to apply for permission to build four more turbines. It is now unclear whether the company will continue with the two turbines which have permission, or abandon the project.

In rejecting planning permission Greg Clark made it clear that the principal reason was the visual impact on local properties. In his written report rejecting the application, he states: “The Secretary of State notes the significant adverse impact on some residents and concludes that the adverse impacts, in his planning judgment, result in unacceptable overbearing impact on nearby property and therefore amount to non-compliance with policy.”

The minister did agree that the development had negligible impact on Crowland Abbey, Thorney Abbey or the Crowland and Thorney conservation areas. He also rejected concerns about the impact of turbines on radar systems guiding planes into RAF Wittering airbase.

“Having weighed up all relevant considerations, the Secretary of State concludes that the factors which weigh in favour of the proposed development do not outweigh its shortcomings and the conflict identified with the development plan and national policy. He considers that there are no material considerations of sufficient weight which would justify granting planning permission.”

There is still the possibility that REG Windpower may apply to the High Court to challenge the validity of the Secretary of State’s decision. They have six weeks to make that challenge.

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