Region would lose £337,500 for community use if decision to refuse plans stand, says developer

NORTH Devon could have lost out on "significant" opportunities and a £337,500 windfall following the decision to refuse plans for a nine turbine wind farm at Batsworthy Cross near South Molton.

RWE npower renewables said it was disappointed at the North Devon Council planning committee verdict, which went against officer recommendations, following a five hour packed public meeting on Wednesday at Bishops Nympton Village Hall.

The committee unanimously refused the plans because it said they would have an adverse impact on landscape and the visual setting of the National Park, as well as impact on residential amenity and listed buildings.

The company said it was now considering its options and claimed the judgement blocked the generation of enough green electricity to meet the annual needs of around 8,700 households.

Those opposing the plans had conducted a strenuous campaign, citing the impact the development would have on the edge of Exmoor site among a long list of objections. A total of 660 had objected to the plans and Wednesday's meeting saw 45 people each make three minute representations.

Now RWE npower renewables is awaiting written confirmation from the council and the reasons for refusal before deciding whether to appeal against the decision.

Among the benefits it said the area would lose out on was a community fund of £1,000 per megawatt per year for the life of the wind farm, estimated at £337,500 over 25 years, with local people having a say on how it would be spent.

"In the past our community benefit packages have been used to fund a wide variety of activities including community building refurbishments, environmental education programmes, energy efficiency schemes and supporting local groups and organisations," said developer Chris Nunn.

"We have taken great care in the selection of Batsworthy Cross site and have worked diligently with the community, statutory consultees and officers to ensure the proposal works technically whilst still being sympathetic to the local environment.

"The proposal was recommended for approval by the council's officers and met all requirements including those set out in important reports commissioned by the council and used by the council in considering previous wind farm applications.

"We consulted extensively with the local community and received a great deal of support for our application. This decision will be a great disappointment to all those local people."

The company said even with Fullabrook, Devon was still 50MW short of achieving its target of 151MW of renewable power by 2010.

Witheridge ward member Councillor Jeremy Yabsley, who proposed the motion for refusal, said he was pleased at the outcome: "This was a direct response to not only the impact on the surrounding environment, but also to the wishes of local people, who have been consistent and clear that they do not want the wind farm."

In a joint statement, independent ward members for South Molton Cllrs David Worden and John Moore said they were in support of renewable energy but concerned by particular aspects of the application, including details they felt hadn't been fully explored.

A report will go to the next Planning Committee on July 13 to agree and confirm the reasons for refusal.