Green belt wind farm go-ahead ‘has implications for the future’

Councillors will be warned this week that a planning inspector’s decision to allow a wind farm to go-ahead in Leeds could have implicatons for future applications in the city.

The controversial plans for a wind farm on green belt land at Hook Moor, in east Leeds, were granted permission after a second appeal against their rejection.

Leeds councillors had previously rejected the plans for five turbines on land near Micklefield but it was announced at the end of last year that the Planning Inspectorate had overturned that decision following a second public inquiry on the issue.

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On Thursday members of Leeds City Council’s plans panel east will discuss the decision and its implications.

A report says the issues the inspector found there was strong national support for renewable energy to tackle climate change; emerging local targets for renewable energy and he also said the fact it would provide jobs was also in the scheme’s favour.

The inspector felt that there would be some harm to the “openness and purposes” of the green belt and a degree of harm to the character and appearance of the landscape. However, he attached more weight to the case for renewable energy.

A report to members says: “Obviously each proposal must be assessed on its own merits and every site is distinct but this decision will be important to note in relation to future proposals for wind turbines within Leeds, including those for smaller-scale generation.”

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It adds: “This case has shown that the weight to be afforded to renewable energy proposals should be substantial, even when sited within green belt locations.

“In this particular case, the weight afforded to the renewable energy provision (together with some weight towards employment) was considered to outweigh the harm to the green belt...”

Critics of the scheme argue it is an inappropriate development in the green belt and say the turbines will dominate the local landscape.

However, in his appeal decision, planning inspector Philip Major said: “The large scale, horizontal simplicity of the landscape in the vicinity of the proposed turbines would lend itself to the introduction of large scale features more easily than other locations of more complexity.

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“Though turbines would be unmissable and prominent, they would be of a scale which would gel with the scale of the immediate surroundings. They would not seem wholly out of place close to the nearby motorways.”

Mr Major said he believed the impact on the landscape would only be “slight to moderately harmful, depending on the particular position of the viewer.”

Speaking after the decisions, Local campaigner Howard Ferguson said: “It looks as if it will be only a matter of time before everybody travelling along the A1M and the M1 will be witness to five industrial wind turbines next to the route.

“For those travelling south from Scotch Corner it will be the first industrial structure in over 50 miles – extending industrialised West Yorkshire well into the green belt.

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“Those visiting Lotherton Hall will find it dominated by industrialisation.”

Banks Renewables put forward the proposals for the Hook Moor development.

They said the five-turbine scheme would be able to meet the annual electricity consumption requirements of more than 8,000 homes. Up to 30 people will work on site during the construction process.

A spokesman for Banks Renewables, said following the inspector’s decision: “We have always believed that the Hook Moor wind farm was a well thought-out and sensibly-sited project, and are extremely pleased that the many benefits of the scheme have been recognised through the inspector’s decision.”

He said the scheme would play a key role in enabling the council “to meet its immediate and future renewables obligations”.