'Potentially catastrophic' wind turbines next to road will stay; Campaigners say the turbine is too close to the road and the decision to allow it to be built there was taken by unelected officials
Is this wind turbine too close to a main road? Activists from the Campaign to Protect Rural England believe it is.
Council officers and members of CPRE have clashed over the erection of a wind turbine next to the A388 near Ashwater in North Devon.
Campaigners say the turbine is too close to the road and the decision to allow it to be built there was taken by unelected officials against the objections of the local MP and Devon County Council.
Torridge District Council, the planning authority for the area, says the decision is perfectly legal and many other wind turbines have been put in similar positions elsewhere in the country.
After constructing three wind turbines on land at Nethcott Farm, near Ashwater, the applicant submitted a retrospective planning application to vary the conditions on the initial planning application, allowing two of the wind turbines to remain where they were built, within in 60 and 80 metres of the A388.
The application was not called in by the area’s district councillor and a decision to approve the application was made by a council officer.
CPRE spokesman Penny Mills believes the decision is potentially dangerous, she said: “The planning officer, it didn't go to plans committee, has permitted this application, which was to re-site a 77m wind turbine which had been erected in the wrong location, too close to the road.
“The point really is this is an unnecessary risk. The turbine was incorrectly erected too close to the road. This was pointed out to the council. Instead of moving the turbine, the applicant submitted a retrospective application for it to remain where it was wrongly and potentially unsafely erected.
“Various people including Highways submitted their comments on this application. Highways said it is potentially catastrophic but the Torridge planning officer has permitted the application anyway.
“So why has the advice from highways been ignored and why put anyone at such an unnecessary risk? The turbine should be moved further away from the road avoiding any possible risk to anybody. Safety should be paramount.”
CPRE’s position is supported by the area’s MP Geoffrey Cox who wrote to Torridge to object the wind turbines remaining in their current position, he wrote: “I understand that two of the three turbines, which have been operational since September 2016, are situated dangerously close to the A388, which is a busy and well used road.
“At 77 metres in height, these turbines should be situated considerably further away from the road than the 60 metre and 80 metre distance that turbines two and three currently occupy.
“In their current position they pose a significant threat to road users, as the distance is not sufficient to prevent the turbines from landing on the road in the event that they should fall over.”
Devon County Council was consulted on the application and its highways officer Matthew Collins responded by calling the turbines’ positions “potentially catastrophic”.
Mr Collins wrote: “ I do not find that the proposal to place a 75m tall turbine (including blades) within 60m of a road to be safe, and in this case I consider it to be not only severely unsafe, but potentially catastrophic.
“Over the 25 year lifetime of the planning permission, there is a chance that the turbine would fall onto the road, causing damage to the highway, and to vehicles and people either in the vehicles or on the road after the incident.
“The proposal does not create a safe situation and therefore people are not comfortable when using this road.”
In response to these objections Torridge’s lead member for planning, Peter Watson, said: “The turbine in question was the subject of a recent planning application which sought to vary the condition of a previous planning application as the turbine had been built in a different location.
“There is in fact no current legislation restricting the siting of turbines in relation to a highway and indeed across the country many have been built that are taller and closer to highways. Many are in business parks, adjacent to football pitches, nightclubs etc.
“While this does not set a precedent our planners carefully considered all of the independent professional risk assessments submitted with the application and determined that the proposals were acceptable.”