VIDEO: Atlantic Array a step closer to reality
A plan for one of the biggest off-shore wind farms in the world moved a step closer to becoming a reality off the Westcountry coast last night as two local authorities raised no objection to the £3 billion pound development.
Both Devon county councillors and Torridge district councillors raised no objection to the plans during meetings yesterday – despite some members of the public shouting "shame on you", as results of votes were announced and despite protests from campaigners against the scheme.
The project off the North Devon coast, would be among Britain's biggest wind farms, with up to 240 turbines, if the plans are accepted by the government.
Dozens of objectors to the wind farm held a protest against the scheme yesterday, with some holding placards before the meetings started.
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Torridge District Councillors, who met at Bideford Town Hall, made no objection to the plans in a decision which was split by just one vote despite appeals from campaigners including Penny Mills, the chairman of the Torridge branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), who said: "Get this decision right and the local people will be forever grateful, get it wrong and they will not be."
At the county council meeting, councillor Mike Edmunds, who is also a town and district councillor for Ilfracombe, said he thought North Devon would see "tremendous benefit" should the Array be approved. He said: "I personally don't have a great deal of worry about the landscape.
"It's not the most efficient way of producing electricity, that's why in the Ilfracombe area we're looking at developing other trends such as wave and tidal, but unfortunately we're that far behind with technology that we have to look for a stop gap and unfortunately I think that's wind. I therefore support the Array and I think in 25 years we will see tremendous benefit."
Councillor Rob Vint, from the South Hams district, said the Array was positioned in a location which had the "lowest possible visual impact" and said when considering environmental impacts it was a "fair trade-off". He said: "It's actually quite stunning how low the visual impact is considering its powering 900,000 homes."
RWE Npower Renewables, the firm behind the plans, had earlier said it had worked to reduce the visual impact of the turbines.
Tim Golding, a consultant working with RWE Npower Renewables, speaking at the Torridge council meeting, said that the need for renewable energy cannot be ignored. He said: "RWE are committed to being good neighbours and I urge councillors to see this application as a solution the need for renewable energy."
Councillor Kathy Murdoch also told the Torridge meeting: "Once the beauty of the coast has gone, it has gone."
After the vote at Torridge, outraged members of the public shouted "be ashamed of yourselves", "shame on you", "a disgrace to democracy", "fixed" and "stitched up".
The plans will now be considered by the Planning Inspectorate, which is responsible for deciding large-scale infrastructure projects. The public consultation period on the plans ends on September 16.
Devon county councillors voted to amend some of the five recommendations suggested by officers to send to the Planning Inspectorate after weighing up the balance between landscape and economic issues.
A council report said the project would have negative impacts on the landscape and might not have any economic benefits for north Devon but councillors yesterday agreed to revise one recommendation that the plans have "significant adverse" visual impacts on the North Devon landscape and instead opted to suggest it only had "some visual impact."
It also added to the landscape recommendation that "despite the optimal location" for the wind farm, the visual "impact must be given full and appropriate weight in determining the application".