Turbine proposal in Mollington refused

Cherwell District Council. ENGNNL00120130724145215
Cherwell District Council. ENGNNL00120130724145215

A Government planning inspector has agreed with Cherwell District Council to refuse plans for a 77-metre high wind turbine in Mollington.

In April 2014, members of the council’s planning committee rejected an application for the erection of a single wind turbine on land at Lower Farm in the village.

Following an appeal by applicant Murex Energy Limited, inspector Paul Griffiths upheld Cherwell’s original decision, stating the turbine would cause significant harm to the Grade II-listed Obelisk based at Farnborough Hall.

In his report, Mr Griffiths referred to a site visit earlier this year which involved walking the route leading up to the Obelisk and said: “The point when the Obelisk introduces itself is relatively close to the observer and has an immediate, substantial and dramatic presence as the focus of the view and the clear destination point of the route. This cleverly-manipulated experience is an important part of the setting and significance of the Obelisk.

“From what I experienced at my site visit, as one walks along the route, the wind turbine would manifest itself in the view a short time before, or at the same time as, the Obelisk. Even allowing for separation distance and the landscape background, its moving visual presence would act as a distraction and take some of the observer’s focus away from the immediacy of the walk.

“In doing so, the drama involved in the sudden emergence of the Obelisk would be reduced and this would detract from the overall experience of the walk.”

The proposed wind turbine measured 77 metres to the maximum tip height and would generate almost 2,000 MWh of energy each year, capable of powering 409 homes in the Cherwell district.

Although both national planning guidelines and Cherwell’s adopted local plan encourage councillors to endorse the provision of renewable energy sources, applications should not be approved if the harm caused by the development will significantly outweigh the benefits.

In his report, Mr Griffiths stated the wind turbine would be visible from the Obelisk at a distance of about 1.5km and said the harm caused ‘weighed heavily’ against the benefits and the impacts of the proposal ‘are not, and cannot, be made acceptable’ by imposing conditions upon approval.

At the time of denying the application, Cherwell District councillors had listed the impact on the Obelisk as among their reasons for refusal. Members had also listed concerns about the safety of pilots flying planes to and from the nearby Shotteswell Airfield and horse riders using paths close to the site.

However Mr Griffiths felt neither of these issues breached appropriate safety guidelines.

Councillor Michael Gibbard, Cherwell’s lead member for planning, said: “In looking ahead to renewable energy sources for the future we cannot ignore important landscape features of the past and present. In this case members agreed the impact of the turbine would have serious implications for the Obelisk and we are pleased that the inspector has shared our concerns and upheld our original decision. As an authority we are always keen to support and endorse sustainable energy use but not when this comes at the expense of Cherwell’s existing landscape and features.”