An adverse impact on the local landscape and the setting of heritage assets has led the secretary of state to dismiss plans for between eight and 10 wind turbines in Lincolnshire.
The site consisted of several large arable fields close to a village and a limestone escarpment designated as an area of great landscape value. The Lincolnshire Wolds AONB lay approximately 15 kilometres from the site. The appellant proposed that each turbine would have a height to blade tip of almost 127 metres, giving a total installed capacity of up to 25MW.
The appellants claimed that the district had great potential to accommodate onshore wind energy schemes. Planning practice guidance on wind energy schemes does not recalibrate the tests set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, they maintained. They argued that eight or ten turbines would operate within acceptable environmental limits and would have no adverse impact on protected landscapes, while the impact on the setting of heritage assets would be less than substantial.
The council that the presumption in favour of sustainable development set out in paragraph 14 of the NPPF did not apply because the development failed to comply with other policies in the framework on heritage assets. The project did not comprise sustainable development because of the adverse impact on the landscape and sensitive receptors, it argued. Its objections were supported by a group of local residents who appeared at the inquiry as a rule 6 party.
The secretary of state agreed that no prejudice was caused by determining the eight-turbine scheme put forward as an alternative. He attached substantial weight to the June 2015 written ministerial statement on the new considerations applicable to wind energy developments with immediate effect.
While accepting that neither scheme would have a substantial impact on the setting of heritage assets, he reasoned that this did not mean the harm was to be given less than substantial weight. In his view, the landscape impact - particularly on a vale beyond the limestone ridge - would be significantly adverse. He also concluded that no harm would arise for people with autism or for local tourism and businesses.
In applying the statement, the secretary of state was not convinced that the planning impacts identified by affected local communities had been adequately addressed. He noted that the local population had been closely involved throughout the planning process and affected communities had consistently repeated their concerns. Harm to the landscape, visual amenity and heritage assets outweighed the government’s commitment to securing more electricity from renewable sources, he concluded.