No unbroken line of wind-farms – inquiry is told

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

Concerns that wind-farms will merge to form an unbroken line across the fen landscape were refuted on the second day of the planning inquiry into the construction of four additional turbines at French Farm, to the north of Thorney.

Landscape architect Marc van Grieken said the six wind turbines at French Farm would have no cumulative effect on the landscape when viewed against other wind farms in the area.

He had been questioned in detail about the effect the additional turbines would have on both the character of the landscape and on the visual amenity of residential properties.

He said that within a 5km radius of French Farm, there were two existing single wind turbines, one at Poultry Farm and one at Hundreds Farm. The new wind farm at Wryde Cross, which is under construction, would be right at the border of the 5km. “I don’t believe there is any cumulative effect between Wyrde Cross and French Farm and I have no concerns about the single turbines.”

Mr van Grieken had carried out landscape and visual-impact assessments on behalf of developers REG Windpower, including detailed reports of how views from homes around the proposed wind-farm would be affected. He told the inquiry he had written to 42 homes, but only 11 had agreed to co-operate. He’d speculatively visited four more homes while in the area and so had carried out 15 home assessments.

“At none of the properties the turbines would be unpleasantly overwhelming and an unavoidable presence in main views,” he said. “In my view the effect would not be such that the property would become an unattractive place to be.”

His report identifies “significant landscape and visual effects” but says these were limited and in proportion to the scale and size of the development proposals.

The inquiry took written evidence from Dr Simon Collcutt, a professional archaeologist, who said that boreholes had discovered no archaeological features. He said there would be minor impact on views of Crowland Abbey, with the turbines appearing in the background when the abbey was viewed from Crowland Common.

Summing up the case for the developers, planning expert Paul Singleton cited Peterborough City Council’s ambition to become the “environment capital of the UK” and said the proposed turbines conformed to the development plan. “It is also consistent with government policy and objectives with regard to renewable energy capacity and reducing greenhouse gases.”

He said that planning permission should be granted without delay.

The planning inquiry closed this afternoon (Thursday) and will reconvene with a public meeting at the Bedford Hall in this evening. Planning inspector John Braithwaite will undertake a site visit tomorrow (Friday) and report back to the Minister for Communities and Local Government with his recommendation. This is likely to take some months.

REG Windpower already has planning permission for two wind turbines at French Farm and construction has started on those, but stopped pending the application for four more. If planning permission is granted, the wind-farm is committed to paying £60,000 per annum into a community fund.

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