Dunsland Cross Wind Farm
Welcome to the Dunsland Cross Wind Farm networking site. The aim of this site is to keep you informed about Bolsterstone's proposal to build three wind turbines at Dunsland Cross next to the village of Brandis Corner.
Since May 2008 we have been active within the local community distributing our Community Newsletters and gathering information. Copies of our newsletters are posted on this site and they explain who we are and what we are trying to achieve. A review of all the documents posted will give you access to information, which might not be included in the actual development proposal.
If you wish to make any comments about this proposal please use our contact page to send an email.
The full Public Inquiry was held over 4 days in the week before Christmas 2013. The Inspector's decision to allow the Appeal was announced on 30 January 2014. His decision notice is available below:
There were four issues under consideration at the Inquiry: Visual impact of the turbines on the landscape, visual impact on the nearest properties, noise impact on the nearest properties and impact on bats. Although proofs of evidence had been supplied by the Appellant's Noise and Ecology witnesses, the Appellant chose not to allow them to take the stand at the Inquiry and have that evidence tested in cross-examination. The reason given for this was that it was imperative that the Inquiry finished on time and did not overrun into 2014.
Torridge District Council (TDC), which contested the visual impact issues and DTOG, which contested the noise and ecology impacts, both disagree with the Inspector's decision but it cannot be challenged in Judicial Review as he has not erred in any matter of law. The 2013 ministerial statements and Planning Practice Guidance, requiring extra weight to be given to the protection of the landscape and residential amenity and the opinions of the local community, were given scant regard in this determination.
It would appear that unless the Appeals are actually recovered by the Secretary of State for DCLG for his own determination then Inspectors are at liberty to pay simple lip-service to the new guidance. It also appears that the word 'local' is open to interpretation. Thus, as far as this Appeal was concerned, the Inspector regarded any Torridge residents as being 'local', and their opinions, even if canvassed via pro-forma sign-up letters from passers-by in Bideford, 19 miles away, carry as much weight as those who will end up living just 500m away from the turbines for at least 25 years.
The Appeal was allowed because TDC and DTOG had to prove that the harm caused by the development would be 'significantly and demonstrably' greater than any benefit it might convey. TDC and DTOG felt they had done this but the Inspector disagreed. It was not enough to prove that the harm simply outweighed the benefit, so it was not a level playing field. The developer had a head start.
Two aspects of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) were key to the determination. The first is to be found in NPPF paragraph 14 and the second in paragraph 98.
NPPF 14 is where the words 'significantly and demonstrably' appear. This paragraph is engaged in a determination when a council's local plan is silent on the issue of renewable energy development. This is the case in Torridge at present and it arose as a result of an administrative error by the now defunct Government Office for the South West (GOSW). GOSW failed to save a renewable energy policy known as ECD9 when asked to do so by TDC and by the time the error had been noticed it could not be reversed. This situation will remain until the new TDC and North Devon Joint Local Plan is adopted later this year.
NPPF 98 requires that any adverse impacts of a proposed development must be acceptable or be capable of being made acceptable by mitigation before a proposal can be approved. As far as this Inspector is concerned, the landscape visual impact will be harmful but acceptable. The residential visual impact will be harmful, but not so much so that the properties most affected would become unattractive places in which to live, which is the test in planning. The noise from the turbines can be controlled by condition and the impact on bats will be reduced by the imposition of an Ecological Management Plan (EMP).
Despite the refusal by the Appellant to allow his noise witness to take the stand at the Inquiry, the DTOG Noise expert-witness was able to secure three important concessions from the Appellant during the Inquiry week.
The first is a reduction in the night time noise limit from 43dB to 40dB. Whilst this does not materially change anything about the likely performance of the candidate turbines used to determine the Appeal, it does prevent the developer substituting noisier turbines at any future date. The second is a condition which requires turbines running in noise-suppressed modes by day, which will be a common occurrence, to be also running in that same noise-suppressed mode by night in the same wind conditions. The significance of this is that the turbines can never be noisier at night than they are by day. They will, however, be more audible because the background noise falls away to virtually nothing in the late evening. The third is the adoption of an AM condition, to be based on the new RenewableUK proposal of December 2013 once it has been field tested further. This will ensure that the wind farm operator, whoever that turns out to be, will have to solve any AM problems which might arise at this site, which has high wind shear characteristics known to make the possibility of AM more likely.
The developer still has a number of major hurdles to overcome before this wind farm ever gets built and it is not 100% certain that he will be successful in ever bringing the turbines into operation. DTOG will continue to exist and will be watching and intervening, if necessary, to make sure that the conditions are discharged satisfactorily. Special attention will be given to the EMP, which is fundamentally flawed and contains inappropriately calculated 'acceptable' bat mortality figures for Noctule bats.
If the wind farm does become operational then DTOG will be monitoring the turbines to check that they are programmed in accordance with the agreed curtailment arrangements. It will also be possible to compare the 'before and after' situation, to see how the promises made by the developer in the application compare to the reality of the wind farm in operation.
DTOG will also be pushing to make sure the wind farm owner honours the RenewableUK pledge to donate £5,000 per MW installed capacity every year to the local community for the duration of the permission. This would provide between £30,000 - £37,500 per annum for local projects - whatever that word 'local' might mean by then.
So DTOG is not finished yet, not by a long way! We should like to express our heartfelt thanks to those many supporters of the fight over the last five and a half years, particularly the many local residents who dug deep and gave so generously to fund our campaign. Let's hope that this wind farm is one of the many consented projects which never gets built.