We can't stop march of the wind turbines, East Riding Council admits
THE crippling cost of fighting unsuccessful planning appeals may force East Riding Council to start approving more wind farms.
The authority has so far turned down nine applications, only to see them overturned on appeal.
At an average cost of £70,000 per appeal defeat, that means a bill of £630,000 – money the council can ill afford.
Councillor Symon Fraser, planning portfolio holder at East Riding Council, believes the authority has to change tack.
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He said: "We've lost quite a few and it's always a double whammy because of the cost.
"The message is quite clear; you're going to have to have an absolutely outstanding reason for refusal or it will be passed on appeal.
"East Riding Council is very supportive of renewable energy but the planning committee has been doing its best to support local communities.
"You have to question how sustainable is that position."
The latest reversal was a planning inspector's decision that nine 130m-high turbines can now be built in Fraisthorpe, near Bridlington.
Villagers, East Riding Council and the area's MP Greg Knight warned they would overshadow the countryside and drive away tourists.
But staff at the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol approved the generators against the advice of the council.
The only silver lining for the council was the inspector did not award costs against it, otherwise the already hefty bill for the four-day hearing could have been much worse.
Cllr Fraser said: "The inspector tore to shreds every reason for refusal quite mercilessly.
"We have been very fortunate not to have costs awarded against us.
"Also, if we refuse an application and the decision is reversed on appeal the applicants are less willing to talk about things like community funds, which has provided a significant amount for the rural community around Lissett, for example."
Despite the warning, John Elsom, who was one of the most vocal opponents of the Fraisthorpe plan, believes East Riding Council should continue to fight wind farm applications.
He said: "The council must continue to object to these wind farms where they impact on the local community.
"This was a very disappointing decision. The problem is the Government is talking with different tongues on this.
"On the one hand they say renewable energy is government policy, at the same time Energy Minster John Hayes says there are enough wind turbines.
"Our local MP, Greg Knight, is absolutely against them and has said the inspector made the wrong decision at Fraisthorpe.
"The problem is the law. The planning inspectors are all-powerful and the only appeal against their decision is to the High Court, which is very expensive."
Mr Knight, MP for East Yorkshire, who has written to the Planning Inspectorate to voice his disagreement, said: "It's a bad decision. The inspector has made an awful mistake and I don't think he has properly assessed the evidence.
"In the East Riding, we've got enough turbines.
"I'm hoping the inspector's conclusion is correct and they won't be too bad but I fear for the worst."
So far there has been no sign anyone objecting to the Fraisthorpe wind farm has the financial clout for a High Court appeal.
Jane Evison, East Riding Council portfolio holder for economic development, tourism and rural issues, admitted: "It doesn't help our marketing of the area."
Despite the ongoing cost to taxpayers of the council being defeated at planning appeals, campaign groups are urging members of the authority's planning committee to stick to their guns and, if anything, refuse more turbine applications.
David Hinde, of the No To The Wolds Wind Farm Group, said: "There is no excuse for Symon Fraser suggesting the council might not be able to protect communities from this sort of development. They should reject them in line with the Government's Localism Bill.
"Let's see these communities listened to properly."
Mr Hinde believes the battle should start with the council rejecting applications for single turbines as well as larger farms.
He said: "The single turbines are as intrusive and as damaging to communities."
While the majority of applications for single turbines are approved by planners, others are not.
An application by farmer Stephen Holtby to erect a 36m-high turbine behind his property sparked a flurry of protests and has now been rejected by officers without being referred to councillors.