Picking up the community engagement theme

A 45m high wind turbine was allowed in the east Riding of Yorkshire (DCS Number 400-009-878) after an inspector decided that the proposal had community backing. Following the site visit in June 2015 the secretary of state issued a Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) in relation to wind turbines. This indicated that when determining planning applications for wind energy development local planning authorities should only grant planning permission if the site was in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in a local or neighbourhood plan and it could be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by affected local communities had been fully addressed and the proposal had their backing. Following consultation, the council received eight letters of objection relating to matters including landscape harm, cumulative impact, noise and shadow flicker. The inspector decided that any landscape harm would be very limited in extent, there was very little potential for other turbines to be seen in conjunction with the appeal proposal, conditions would ensure that noise levels were below recommended limits, and hedgerows and trees would mitigate against any limited potential for shadow flicker. On this basis the inspector decided that whilst the site was not within any area identified as suitable for wind turbine development the planning concerns expressed in the submissions from eight local addresses had been fully addressed. He reasoned that since the WMS stated that whether or not a proposal had the backing of the affected local community was a planning judgement for the local planning authority, by inference that judgement must also be for the inspector on appeal. He concluded that the concerns of a small proportion of the local community had been addressed and the scheme could be seen to have the backing of the local community as a whole in the context of the WMS.

Weighing the planning impacts of a development in the balance is one thing, however, while coming to the conclusion that it has community backing in the face of written objection is another. Would the local community ‘as a whole’ agree that the scheme had its backing or is this another example of community engagement fatigue? The inspector might have known the views of the silent majority but the latter conclusion would not seem unreasonable given that eight households objected to the wind turbine and eight households were overruled.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 26.532

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