Tag Archives: REG Windpower

MP says wind farm decision is victory for community


Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson (pictured) issued this statement following news that the government had rejected plans for additional wind turbines at French Drove.

“I’m really pleased at the decision by HM Planning Inspectorate which vindicated all our efforts.

“It shows that if the community works together with a strong argument and marshals their case well, then a poor and inappropriate application can be defeated by the existing planning system.

“That said, had the Secretary of State not responded to my request to use his powers to Call In the plans, it might have been a very different story.

“I’m not against wind turbines full stop – but they have to be placed in appropriate locations and these were not.

“I’d like to thank all those on the campaign team – especially Don and Julie Turner.”

Stewart Jackson played a critical role in helping block the French Drove wind farm. Plans for four more turbines had been approved by Peterborough City Council when Mr Jackson intervened and persuaded Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in the Conservative/Liberal government, to block the decision and send it to a planning inquiry.

By the time the inquiry had made its recommendations, a new government was in power and onshore wind turbines faced a tougher test to win approval.

Eric Pickles’ successor Greg Clark decided the French Drove plans did not meet that tougher test.

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.

French Farm wind turbines – decision delayed

Site of the proposed wind turbines at French Farm

A decision on whether to allow an additional four wind turbines to be built at French Farm has been put back to the end of July.

A decision was expected three weeks earlier, but the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, has delayed the decision to allow time for more comments to be submitted.

The Conservative manifesto made a number of commitments regarding onshore wind-farms which promised to make it harder for them to get planning permission. In a statement made on Thursday (June 18), Mr Clark said:

“Local planning authorities should only grant permission if the site is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in a Local or Neighbourhood Plan; and following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed and therefore the proposal has their backing.”

The new guidance says that because French Farm has already been through the planning process, the local planning authority (in this case Peterborough City Council) can find the proposal acceptable if, following consultation, they are satisfied it has addressed the planning impacts identified by affected local communities and therefore has their backing.

The Secretary of State is now asking for comments relating to his statement and revised planning advice. He says he will take those comments into consideration in making his decision.

The deadline is July 3 and a decision on whether the additional four turbines can be built will be made by July 31.

Mr Clark’s statement can be read here.

The revised planning guidance on wind-farms can be read here.

There is already planning permission in place for two turbines at French Farm, French Drove (to the north of the village), but the developers – REG Windpower – applied for permission to build four more. The application was approved by Peterborough City Council, but “called in” by the Secretary of State following the intervention of Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson.

This meant that the city council’s decision was set aside and the application would be decided by a planning inspector, with the Secretary of State having the final decision.

The man who will decide on Thorney wind-farm


This is the man who will decide whether the wind-farm at French Drove gets the go-ahead.

Greg Clark was named today as Minister for Communities and Local Government in the new Conservative administration. He replaces Eric Pickles.

It is up to him to review the report submitted in April by the planning inspector, John Braithwaite, and make a decision whether it can go ahead or not.

REG Windpower wants to build an additional four wind turbines at French Farm, French Drove to the north of Thorney. The company already has permission to build two, but wants a six-turbine wind-farm. Peterborough City Council granted permission in 2014, but after MP Stewart Jackson intervened, the decision was quashed by central government and a planning inquiry set up.

During his last few months in power, Eric Pickles was notable for rejecting a number of planning applications for wind-farms, sometimes against the advice of planning inspectors. A decision on French Farm has been promised by July and Mr Clark is the man who has to decide.

He is seen as being left of centre, born in Middlesbrough and educated at a comprehensive school. His father and grandfather were milkmen working in a family business, while his mother worked at Sainsbury’s.

He read Economics at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he joined the Social Democratic Party. He then studied at the London School of Economics, where he was awarded his PhD in 1992.

Clark first worked as a business consultant before becoming special advisor to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Ian Lang, between 1996 and 1997. Subsequently, he was appointed the BBC’s Controller, Commercial Policy and was Director of Policy for the Conservative Party from 2001 until his election to parliament in 2005 as MP for Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Before today, he was most famous for saying the Conservative party needed to pay less attention to the social thinking of Winston Churchill, and more to that of columnist on The Guardian, Polly Toynbee.

He became Shadow Minister for Charities, Voluntary Bodies and Social Enterprise in 2006 and two years later was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet, shadowing the new government position of Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

In the coalition government formed in 2010, Mr Clark held a number of posts including:

  • Minister of State in the Department for Communities and Local Government
  • Minister for Cities
  • Financial Secretary to the Treasury
  • Minister for Universities, Science and Cities

He and his wife Helen have three children and they live in Royal Tunbridge Wells.

French Farm wind turbines – decision by July

Wind turbine

A decision on whether additional wind turbines can be built at French Farm will be issued by July 7, according to the Planning Inspectorate.

The proposed wind-farm was the subject of a planning inquiry in early March, including a public consultation in the village.

The Planning Inspectorate issued a notice this week to say the inspector is now preparing his report and recommendation which will be submitted to the Secretary of State for consideration.

The final decision will be made by the Secretary of State for Local Government and the Community. This was Eric Pickles, but a new secretary will not be appointed until after the general election.

There is already planning permission in place for two turbines at French Farm, French Drove (to the north of the village), but the developers – REG Windpower – applied for permission to build four more. The application was approved by Peterborough City Council, but “called in” by the Secretary of State following the intervention of Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson.

This meant that the city council’s decision was set aside and the application would be decided by a planning inspector, with the Secretary of State having the final decision.

French Farm inquiry – people have their say

2015-03-05 19.03.44

The people of Thorney had their say when the planning inquiry into the proposed construction of four wind turbines moved to the Bedford Hall on Thursday evening (March 6)

The session was a stark contrast to the previous sittings at the executive suite at Peterborough United. The language was less technical – instead of talking about impacts on visual amenity, we were hearing about “the view from my home”.

For the previous two days we’d heard landscape architects talking about setting up viewpoints and assessing visual impacts, rated on a sliding scale; here people were talking about their view of open sky now being interrupted by large wind turbines and the silence of the night – one man said he could hear his father-in-law coughing in his farmyard almost a mile away – potentially gone forever due to the noise from the turbines.

There was no open anger, no raised voices – people spoke calmly but passionately about the effect they fear the development will have on their homes and lifestyle.

Planning inspector, John Braithwaite allowed everyone who wanted to speak to do so and seemed to find many of the points raised useful ahead of his site visit on Friday (March 7).

It was clear that the decision by the Ministry of Defence to drop its objection to the development was a major blow. Several speakers, including MP Stewart Jackson, had prepared their case assuming that the RAF’s precision approach radar at Wittering would be affected by the turbines.

Mr Jackson wanted to know what the agreement reached between the MOD and the developers said. The inspector said the document had not been placed before the inquiry; all he knew was that the MOD had withdrawn its opposition and had taken no part in the process.

“It’s not acceptable that some kind of sweetheart deal has been done between the MOD and the applicant and that the public does not know what that is,” said Mr Jackson. “The public and the planning authority deserve to be fully conversant with that mitigation and it is important that it is in the public domain. It is only that way that we can measure the efficacy of that decision by the Ministry of Defence.”

Mr Jackson was highly critical of Peterborough City Council planning officers and the planning committee that voted to approve the additional wind turbines last year. “The report sent to the planning committee was incomplete and inadequate for a decision of such local significance and therefore the decision was made based on inaccurate information.

Other speakers included:

Duncan Godber of French Drove, whose home is 1500m from the proposed wind-farm. He said he had been brought up on a farm in Derbyshire and since he moved to the fens he had enjoyed looking out at the huge skies and views across the landscape.

“I like to think that my environmental impact on the area has been positive because I purchased three acres of land around my home and have restored hedgerows by planting 3,000 native hedge plants and nearly 70 native trees. The amount of wildlife that this has given haven to is fantastic. We have a barn owl box, which is regularly used. Turbines kill raptors. In the last few years wind turbines have started to surround us: we now have turbines in our view to the south at Whittlesey, to the north-west at Deeping to the west on Hundreds Road and soon to be the east with the new site at Nutsgrove and Wryde Croft. The north-east view is the only horizon which is yet to be darkened by wind turbines. If these are constructed, this view will be devastated.”

Julie Turner of Bell Drove was also critical of the city council. She said “I didn’t have any personal experience of planning matters before this but had supposed that the planning department would ensure that every piece of relevant data would be checked thoroughly on our behalf and that they would be working for us.

“I am very disappointed and extremely frustrated by the way we have been treated. Our questions have not been answered, we have been ignored, what we’ve said has been discounted and often we could see no good reason why this has happened.”

She criticised the way noise assessments had been carried out and said that she believed wildlife reports were incomplete. The access roads were incorrectly described on early submissions and a whole chapter and its appendix had to be resubmitted, an error described by the planning office as a typo.

“I actually spoke to the highways department because I was trying to find out what was going on and I was told it would be the same route for the two turbines which were already in place and turning round. She tried to argue with me until I said I’m looking out of the window at the site and they’re not actually built yet.

“That, for me, describes the expertise and ability of some of the council staff that we had to deal with who did not even know that two turbines were not actually at the location. So this person was making a decision about the highways situation when she didn’t even know what was in place.”

Margaret Long of French Drove was concerned about access to the site. She said that according to the developer access would be via the A16, Falls Drove and French Drove.

“This will require considerable alteration to the road system to accommodate loads of up to 120 tonnes. At the A16 junction, the plan shows the ditch filled in so that Falls Drove can exit directly onto the A16 instead of looping round. However, while Lincolnshire Highways Authority confirm they have been consulted about weight limits and structures, which were deemed capable of carrying the load, the principal highways officer was not asked about the suitability of the roads themselves.

“Moving south along Falls Drove to the double bends, the plan shows how the bends need to be modified to allow more sweep, however Bedford North Level Drainage Board have no knowledge of this even though there is a ditch on one side of the road and a sluice gate on the other. Consent to alter a watercourse, even for 24 hours, is required by the Land Drainage Act 1991 and no such consent has been applied for.

“I would urge the inspector to drive along Falls Drove to see the proposed access route for himself.”

Steve Lyons, who lives on Dowsdale Bank, said his home (a renovated chapel) was 700 metres from the nearest turbine and he was worried about flicker and also potential damage to the foundations of his home during piling work when turbine bases were being constructed.

“Because the sun comes up behind us, we will get considerable flicker. They say it will only be once every 13 seconds, but because there are six it will be considerably more.

“We have just rebuilt the chapel; I’m in the construction business and piling for the turbines will give us vibrations which could damage my foundations, which are not good.”

Mr Lyons said he was also worried about wildlife. There were barn owls, bats and marsh harriers in the area.

“In the evening you can sit outside and it’s perfect; you can hear a pin drop. The birds come in and roost and it’s literally perfect. I’ve moved from the other side of March where there are some massive wind-farms. I drove past one today between Huntingdon and Warboys, there are now 12 there where there were four. They’ll build more, what’s to stop them and it will spoil the landscape.”

David Harrington, Peterborough City Council representative for Newborough and Peakirk, said he was a member of the planning committee which approved the original application for an additional four turbines, although he’d voted against it.

He didn’t feel that the committee was able to make a decision because the heritage and wildlife officers, who had noted concerns in their reports, were not present to answer questions. “I asked the principal planning officer why we had not got those officers present so we could get some more information and he said there was enough information in those reports to make a decision. I did not think that was the case.

“To put it in context, I sat on the planning committee on Tuesday and the leader of the council had a holly bush that was in his garden in a conservation area and we had to have the tree officer there, at the committee, to make a decision; yet for a planning application of this significance we hadn’t got the relevant offers that had made those reports there so we could question them.”

David Sanders, councillor for Eye and Thorney, said he agreed with Mr Harrington and also supported the arguments put forward by Stewart Jackson about the harmful effect the turbines could have on the radar guidance systems at RAF Wittering.

“What concerns me, as a councillor, is that this area has already had three major air crashes – two Harriers, a Tornado and a Starlifter. I do not want to see another.”

John Bartlett, chairman of Thorney Parish Council, said his council was completely opposed to this development, which was only the start, with a great many more in the planning stage.

John Kitchen of French Drove said: “I live in an ex-farmer-worker’s cottage and there is no way on this Earth we would dream of wanting to live anywhere else because of the stunning fenland countryside that it’s a privilege to live in. When people come to visit our house, they stand in our garden and they invariably say ‘wow’.

“We’ve stood in our garden and watched a barn owl fly within two metres of us, we’ve watched buzzards soaring in thermals over the house, we’ve seen hares, foxes in the fields, even deer.

“I’ve got one figure for you and that’s 800. That’s the number of metres the proposed nearest wind turbine would be from our house. If somebody mugged somebody walking down the street, they’d be accused of adversely affecting their quality of life and, with a bit of luck, they’d go to prison; well I feel I’m being mugged.”

Angelo Convertino of Dowsdale Bank spoke about the amazing wildlife he can see from his home. He accused the city council planning committee of not properly looking at the area. “Not one of these councillors came down our road. Andy, who lives on the corner, said they turned up in a van, turned round, ran over his grass and drove off. Not all the councillors were even in the bus and that’s as much as what they did to investigate the area.

“It’s absolutely disgusting; the council is just not fit for purpose. They’ve overridden our lives basically.

“On a nice quiet night I can hear my father-in-law cough. He’s a farmer and lives over a mile away. When it’s windy and blowing in the right direction, I can hear him cough and shut his garage door and these turbines are going to be a lot closer.”

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.

MOD withdraws objection to French Farm wind turbines

Wind turbine

A key objection to the development of wind turbines at French Farm has been withdrawn.

As the planning inquiry opened in Peterborough today (Wednesday), it was revealed that the Ministry of Defence was no longer objecting to the development.

The RAF had originally raised concerns about the effect wind turbines would have on precision-approach radar, which guides aircraft into RAF Wittering, also surveillance radar at RAF Cottesmore.

However, Cottesmore has now closed and Wittering’s role is much changed, although the base remains operational and is a diversion airfield and also a logistics hub, with massive Boeing C17 Globemaster transporters using the runway from time to time.

Both Wryde Croft wind-farm at Thorney – which is under construction – and the two wind turbines at French Farm which already have planning permission (a total of 15 turbines) fall within the vision of Wittering’s precision-approach radar but at 13 nautical miles from the base, the effect is not now thought to be severe.

Developers REG Windpower met with the Ministry of Defence in late January and agreed a condition which the RAF is happy with.

John Taylor, a retired Royal Navy Commander and director of Wind Power Aviation Consultants, acting for the developers, said the fact that the MOD has now agreed a condition is a very positive development which protects operations at RAF Wittering and enables this issue to be removed from consideration at the inquiry.

The news dealt a blow to groups opposing the development as the RAF objections were an important part of their campaign.

The inquiry is looking at a planning application for four wind turbines at French Farm, French Drove, to the north of Thorney. Planning permission has already been given for two wind turbines on the site and REG wants to build four more. The turbines have a height of 60 metres to the central hub and 100 metres to the tip of the blade at its highest point of rotation.

Peterborough City Council approved the application, but because of the strength of feeling and local opposition to wind-farm developments around the village, the decision was “called in” by the Department of Communities and Local Government. Effectively, this means that the city council’s decision was blocked and the decision on whether to grant planning permission would be made by a government planning inspector following a public inquiry.

Opposition to the development is led by Thorney North Landscape Protection Group and their case is being put to the inquiry by Ian Kelly, a chartered town planner and head of planning at Graham & Sibbald, chartered surveyors.

In his opening statement, Mr Kelly said that Peterborough City Council had not applied the correct level of informed and independent scrutiny to the initial application. He said Thorney North Landscape Protection Group would present evidence to show that the development was not consistent with government planning policy and guidance for renewable energy developments in that the assessed harm outweighs the benefit; also that the development is not consistent with the development plan for the area.

City Council criticised for sitting on the fence

Peterborough City Council came under fire for adopting a neutral stance at the inquiry.

Marcus Trinick QC, who is representing developers REG Windpower Ltd, said the council had granted planning permission, yet now its position was declared as neutral. “In my view this cannot be,” said Mr Trinick. “It is in favour of the proposed development.”

He pressed Louise Lovegrove, senior development management officer to re-affirm the council’s support, but she would not do so.

“We voted to grant planning permission, but then the decision was taken away from us,” she said. “In the light of this we have taken a neutral stance. It is up to the inspector to decide.”

Ian Kelly, representing Thorney North Landscape Protection Group (TNLPG), was no happier with the council stance and demanded a decision. “Is the council happy for the decision to be approved – yes or no?”

The planning inspector, John Braithwaite, said Ms Lovegrove did not have to answer that question.

“Is your professional opinion neutral as to the outcome?” asked Mr Kelly.

“Yes,” said Ms Lovegrove.

“So you have changed your professional opinion since you recommended the application be granted?”

“Only in the extent that the decision making process has been taken away from the council,” replied Ms Lovegrove.

Part of the Thorney group’s argument is that Peterborough City Council didn’t properly assess the application, in particular that more up-to-date environmental information was ignored and that Ms Lovegrove’s report as the case officer did not include a separate report from the council’s landscape architect. Ms Lovegrove said that the application had been considered by a landscape architect, but that his findings had been included in her report.

It was a bruising morning for Ms Lovegrove, who was forced to admit that this was her first wind-farm case and her first public inquiry.

There was also some scrutiny of her report into the impact of the development on local homes where Ms Lovegrove has used the so-called Lavender test. This is named after a planning inspector who ruled:

“When turbines are present in such number, size and proximity that they represent an unpleasantly overwhelming and unavoidable presence in main views from a house or garden, there is every likelihood that the property concerned would come to be regarded as an unattractive and thus an unsatisfactory (but not necessarily uninhabitable) place in which to live. It is not in the public interest to create such living conditions where they did not exist before.”

Ms Lovegrove said this test had been applied in the Treadwell Farm planning inquiry in South Holland District, which had been published shortly before the city council were to consider the French Farm application. Mr Kelly asked her how she would define the tipping point of visual effect that would make somewhere an unsuitable place to live.

“I believe this would be where turbines reach such an extent that they become the dominant feature. I appreciate this is a subjective matter and residents may set the bar higher than I do.” She did not believe this was the case with regard to French Farm.

The inquiry adjourned for lunch

Landscape architects clash on visual effect of French Farm wind turbines

During the afternoon session, two landscape architects submitted somewhat different assessments regarding the impact of the French Farm wind turbines.

Mark Steele for Thorney North Landscape Protection (against the proposal) and Marc van Grieken for developers REG Windpower, submitted evidence that differed substantially in its conclusions.

Mr van Grieken’s evidence stated that: “at none of the properties assessed residents will experience impacts which could be said to be overbearing or dominant, or to dominate.

“The development will not affect the outlook of these residents to such an extent that the property would become an unattractive place to live.”

Mr Steele’s evidence was picked over by Marcus Trinick QC for REG Windpower who savaged a number of findings.

He claimed the evidence had mixed up some properties so incorrect visual impacts had been reported; evidence on the design of the wind-farm had considered only two-thirds of the development; the same wording had been used to describe views from different points and there was no proof to support an assertion that high levels of visual impact would be present up to four kilometres away from the site.