Application P/2013/0411 to Powys County Council: Erection of 500Kw Wind Turbine (hub 50m, total height 79m), ancillary structures and new access road at Bowdler Farm, Knighton.

Stonewall Hill Conservation Group Objection   1.6.2013

             Bowdler Farm Turbine from the Green-Price Memorial near Offa’s Dyke    

SONY DSC

photomontage Gareth Rees-Roberts

 

1. Landscape

2. Offa’s Dyke and Historic Landscape 

3. Public recreation: Llan-Wen Green Lane 

4. The Site Layout and Construction 

5. Cumulative Impact 

6. Noise 

7. Proliferation 

8. Tourism and Farm Economics 

9. EIA Screening Opinion and Planning Guidance 

Appendix: Planning Policies

Introduction  

The turbine proposed in P/2013/0411 is no domestic or agricultural turbine. It is an excessively large de-rated machine at the very limit of the “small turbine” category designed to maximize feed-in tariff profit without regard to minimizing environmental impact. It will be on the skyline close to Offa’s Dyke, in unspoilt Powys countryside, towering over a popular green lane and visible from parts of Knighton, Norton and Presteigne. A new access track will come from a dangerous road. The economic advantage to one family is outweighed by the economic damage and loss of amenity caused to many locals. The application seeks to minimize the significance of all the negative impacts and gives an inadequate account of the possible cumulative impact with Reeves Hill Wind Farm turbines on the same upland formation.

1. Landscape

A 79m turbine is approximately twice as high as any other single turbine in Powys and is located on the skyline, dwarfing traditional landscape features 

  • On turbines outside SSA areas TAN8 2.13 states “There is a balance to be struck between the desirability of renewable energy and landscape protection”.
  • The development is contrary to UDP Policy E3 – Wind-power, para. 1 and Policy Env 2 – Safeguarding the landscape.
  • There is adjacent conifer woodland which should limit adjacent turbine height to about 20m. Powys Small Wind Turbine Planning Guidance says, “Where located adjacent to built structures or vegetation features in a rural location, turbines should be no more than 50% higher than these”.
  • The LVIA conclusion is wrong in saying “the proposed wind turbine at Bowdler Farm would relate to the existing local landscape character, respecting the scale and composition of the landscape (which) has the capacity to accommodate the scale of the development proposed” (LVIA 1.10.17).
  • The LVIA claim, that a “Teme Hillside with Wind Turbine Landscape sub-type” would be limited to a radius of only 1km, is a biased assessment.

The Developer’s Landscape Assessment makes sweeping value judgments in order to undermine the significance of impact.

  • Analysis of significant impacts depends on the Developer’s unjustified assumptions:

– significant effects will only be experienced within 1km,

– potential for significant effects out to 1.5km,

– no significant effects beyond 1.5km “due to separation distance”.

  • The unrealistic limits above lead to the conclusion that there isno overall significant effect on (Landmap) Aspect Area VS120” in which turbine the sits in spite of the huge area of visibility on an open continuous upland shown in the ZTV (LVIA1.7.18, fig. 4).
  • In spite of the ZTV evidence, the LVIA text claims that the theoretical visibility would be “primarily concentrated” within 1.5km to the west, 2km to the north, 1km to the west (meaning east towards the Observatory) and, to the south, towards Norton.
  • The LVIA admits a wider radius for significant views for residents in Knighton and Norton, but, because views are restricted from some houses, still manages to conclude that “overall” the effects on these settlements are “not significant” (LVIA 1.8.22 & 25).
  • The LVIA viewpoint analysis describes the “recreational” view from Reeves Hill as significant but the text does not discuss walkers or horse-riders on the continuous Stonewall Hill, Reeves Hill, Llan-Wen upland who regularly use the unclassified road over Stonewall Hill and the Llan-Wen Green Lane past the Observatory and within about 60m of the proposed turbine) to the bridleway leading to the B4355.

2. Offa’s Dyke and Historic Landscape

  • The development is contrary to Planning Policy Wales guidance 4.4.3 that planning policies, decisions and proposals should  “Help to ensure the conservation of the historic, environmental and cultural heritage”.
  • The development is contrary to UDP Policy E3 – Wind-power, para. 1 and

UDP Policy Env 17 Ancient monuments and archaeological sites and Policy SP3.

  • The Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment briefly discusses the history of Offa’s Dyke as “one of the most important archeological sites in Britain” but it has no discussion of the Dyke’s setting in which the turbine would be constructed (although the English Heritage Guidance on “setting” which is followed by CADW, is in the bibliography).  In spite of the acknowledged importance of Offa’s Dyke, the impact is assessed as “Minor Adverse”, because the wind turbine will be “a significant feature within the landscape”, “reflective of modern attitudes to renewable energy” and wind turbines “are increasingly an acceptable addition to the 21st century rural landscape”. This is opinion; it is not professional assessment. The LVIA fails to mention that Offa’s Dyke is a SAM.
  • The Cultural heritage Impact Assessment describes the impact on the Historic Landscape Character as “Major Adverse yet the very next paragraph says that there are no “overriding cultural heritage constraints which should prohibit development” (4.5.6 and 5.1.1).
  • The visual impact on walkers on Offa’s Dyke National Trail is described as “significant” over 3km of the path (LVIA 1.8.4.2) but this significance is immediately undermined.  Because there would be less view from other parts of the Dyke, within the limited study area of 5km radius, “the overall effect on users (would be) of slight magnitude and moderate significance”.

3. Public Recreation: Llan-Wen Green Lane 

  • The development is contrary to UDP Policy E3 – Wind-power, para 5.
  • The recreational use of the green lane connecting the bridleway from the B4355 to Llanshay Lane for walking and horse-riding is not mentioned. The turbine is unacceptably close to the green lane (50 – 70m). Bridleway status has been applied for to preserve this public use.

4. The Site Layout and Construction

The development is contrary to UDP Policy E3 – Wind-power, para. 5.

 Use of the new entrance and extensive use of the existing one will be dangerous for the B4355.

  • Powys Small Wind Turbine Planning Guidance says there will be no micrositing for small wind projects. The Design and Access Statement seeks 20m micrositing allowance quoting NPS 2.7.23.  NPS 2.7.23 is clearly referring to large-scale wind farms.
  • There is a 2-3 month turbine construction period involving at least 99 loads of concrete/hardcore/gravel. Other loads (steel/cables etc. are not mentioned). The timetable for construction of 740m of new track, and upgrading of 760m of existing track, all to 5m width, is not described. Material needed and vehicle loads are not described. The prolonged, unspecified total construction period with all loads, except abnormal ones, passing some 100m from their house is not acceptable to Mount Farm residents. It will also be a disturbance to other residents and vehicles on nearby roads.
  • There will be no removal of habitats” (LVIA 1.7.23), however 20m of hedgerow and some trees will be removed. All the site hedgerows must be regarded as “important” (CHIA 3.7.3).
  • The text of the Environmental Report and Figs. contradict each other over the sites of substation and cables.

5. Cumulative Impact

The significant cumulative impacts with Reeves Hill Wind Farm are minimized in the LVIA

  • Instead of admitting that this turbine will add to the impact of RHWF, it argues that the Bowdler Farm turbine would merely “reinforce” the impact of RHWF on Norton, the B4355, walkers on Offa’s Dyke National Trail and cyclists on the Sustrans route 825.
  • The LVIA assumes that RHWF will be pre-existing.  Access to RHWF has not been determined by Powys and so the outcome is uncertain.
  • The Bowdler Farm Landscape Assessment accepts the Landscape Assessment provided by the RHWF developer. Both suffer from consistent underestimation of impact.
  • The Cumulative ZTV (fig. 09) shows substantial overlap of visibility especially for scattered upland residences, Norton and Eastern Knighton and from Offa’s Dyke and the Shropshire AONB. However both BF and RHWF assessments set arbitrary limits of significance which factor out much of the significant cumulative impact which would be experienced in practice.

6. Noise

  • The noise assessment is contrary to UDP Policy E3 – Wind-power, para 3.
  • The Bowdler Farm Turbine noise may result in cumulative noise over the thresholds set in the RHWF assessment at properties where predicted RHWF noise is already close to the threshold at some wind speeds. An assessment of cumulative noise impact should be made.

7. Proliferation

  • Approval of Bowdler Farm Turbine would create a new “wind farm landscape” and result in a flood of applications from landowners, some of whom are already waiting for the outcome of this application. Planning refusals would become more difficult to defend and each turbine construction would have a knock-on effect as can be seen, for example, in Cornwall. 

8. Tourism and Farm Economics

  • The development in contrary to UDP SP1
  • The Welsh Tourist Board hopes for a 20% increase in Welsh tourism.
  • In this area, tourism depends on unspoilt traditional landscape, cultural history and Offa’s Dyke National Trail and is a major force in the local Welsh Marches economy.  Knighton and Presteigne businesses need visitors for local spending – more so during the prolonged economic downturn. Many locals are employed in tourist accommodation enterprises, some of them as a result of farm diversification into holiday accommodation, which also benefits the wider economy.
  • The substantial farm income from wind generation will only be sustainable in the long term if turbines are replaced each 15 years or so. Historical evidence does not support the claim of a 25year life span of on-shore turbines. Therefore either turbine sites will not be “temporary and reversible” as claimed, or uneconomic farms will find themselves back in their previous non-competitive state.
  • The economic welfare of one farming family should not be used as an argument for jeopardising the income of many others and causing a large number of neighbours to suffer a substantial drop in property value.
  • It is claimed the energy generated will be “enough to power 435 homes”. This is a misleading statement; similar claims, lacking proper explanation, have been prohibited by the Advertising Standards Authority.

9.  EIA Screening Opinion and Planning Guidance

i. An EIA should have been required

The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011

Schedule 2 says EIA may be required if the development involves a wind turbine of hub-height exceeding 15m.

Schedule 3 gives selection criteria for screening Schedule 2 development for EIA requirement of which four are especially relevant to this application.

  • size of the development

This is a development of 50m hub height, over three times the threshold of 15m and the tip height is approx. twice as high as any single turbine constructed in Powys.

  • cumulation with other development

This turbine has a potential cumulative impact with Reeves Hill Wind Farm, consented by Herefordshire Council and subject of an application to Powys P/2012/0573, predating this application, which has not yet been determined.

  • landscapes of historical, cultural or archaeological significance

This development is in the setting and landscape of Offa’s Dyke SAM and National Trail, being 1.35km from the nearest section. Views from a significant portion of Offa’s Dyke would include this turbine as well as the four Reeves Hill Wind Farm Turbines if both were approved.

  • extent of the impact (geographical area and size of affected population)

The 79m turbine would be seen on the skyline rising from land at 380amsl and thus visible from a large area. For Wales, this is a relatively highly populated rural area with the settlements of Knighton, Norton and Presteigne in close proximity.

The author of the Screening Opinion says the wording of the regulations “suggests that EIA may be required by reason of just one of these factors”.

However, on checking these Schedule 3 criteria (which are also reproduced in Appx. B of Circular 11/99), she does “not consider that the proposal constitutes EIA development”.

Without giving reasons, she further concludes, “There would not be a significant effect on the environment such that an expert and detailed study through an EIA is needed to properly assess any effect of the development and therefore the proposal does not need an EIA.

ii. The Screening Opinion contains serious and misleading material factual errors

  • The turbine is for domestic use”.

It is not: electricity will be exported to the grid in order to make a substantial profit, which will include feed-in tariffs for the banding up to 500kw.

  • The nearest property is 8km from the site”

Even if the author meant 800m, this is inaccurate. There are three properties closer than Bowdler Farm, which, in the Developer’s Environmental Report, is stated to be approx. 740m away, while the Developers’ Heritage report says Hill House Farm is 550m away.

  • The proposed route for bringing the wind turbine components onto site will be via the B4357 and utilise the existing farm track through the existing farmyard

The application documents specify an entirely new track from the B4355, not the B4357

  • “The site is within 1.8km of Offa’s Dyke” and Offa’s Dyke and other historic sites could be “safeguarded through condition”

Offa’s Dyke is 1.35m from the turbine base and Offa’s Dyke could not possibly be safeguarded from the visual impact of a 79m structure “through condition”. Even the Developer says no mitigation is possible.

iii. Powys Small Wind Turbine Planning Guidance Note gives application requirements for

turbines over 50m in height ( blade tip)

Appx 5

“In situations where a turbine already exists or multiple turbines are proposed a

cumulative noise impact assessment will be required.”

Appx 7 (iii)

“For turbines of this scale, CCW (Countryside Council for Wales) would normally wish to be consulted by the Planning Authority on the scope of the assessment.”

“At this scale of development, the LVIA would be likely to, as a minimum, require:

i. A ZTV map out to 30km;

iv. A baseplan map of all wind turbine proposals in the public domain to 60km;

v. A focused assessment of all applied, consented or constructed proposals within

   a 30km radius of the application proposal.”

  • The simplified methodology required for noise assessment ignores the cumulative noise impact with Reeves Hill Wind Farm.
  • None of the LVIA documents above is included in the application.
  • CCW is not mentioned in the screening opinion.

*    *     *     *    *    *     *

For all the reasons above, we consider that the EIA screening opinion  –

  • has not followed planning guidance
  • wrongly concludes that expert and detailed study is not needed
  • contains serious factual errors to the applicant’s advantage.
  • failed to ask the applicant for minimum requirements for this development

SHCG believes an EIA should now be required, the mistakes rectified and the recommended documents requested from the Developer

Appendix: Relevant UDP Policies; Small Wind Turbine Planning Guidance Note

Policy Env2 – Safeguarding the landscape

Proposals for the development and use of land should take account of the high quality of the landscape throughout Powys and be appropriate and sensitive to the character and surrounding landscape. Proposals which are acceptable in principle should:

1. Contain appropriate measures to ensure satisfactory integration into the landscape;

2. Not unacceptably adversely affect features of importance for nature conservation or amenity

Policy Env 17 – Ancient monuments and archaeological sites.

Development which would unacceptably affect the site or setting of a scheduled ancient monument or of an archaeological site of national importance will not be permitted.

Policy E3 – Wind-power

Applications for wind farms including extensions to existing sites and individual wind turbine generators will be approved where:

1. They do not unacceptably adversely affect the environmental and landscape quality of Powys, either on an individual basis or in combination with other proposed or existing similar developments. Where the cumulative impact of proposals in combination with other approved or existing windfarms would be significantly detrimental to overall environmental quality they will be refused.

3. They do not unacceptably adversely affect the occupants or users of sensitive properties (usually dwellings) or their amenities by reason of noise, vibration, shadow flicker or reflected light.

4. They do not unacceptably impact upon any buildings or features of conservation or archaeological interest.

5. They do not unacceptably adversely affect the enjoyment and safe use of highways and the public rights of way network, especially bridleways (including during the construction phase).

6. They would be capable of being served by an acceptable means of highway access and any new or improved roads and accesses required would not have unacceptable environmental impacts.

7. Applicants are able to demonstrate through land management schemes that there would be adequate mitigation or compensation for any adverse impact on environmental quality, wildlife habitats or heritage features.

UDP SP1 – Social, community and cultural sustainability

In assessing proposal for new developments due regard will be given to the need to sustain and where possible enhance the social cultural and linguistic characteristics of the area and to the contribution that the proposals can make towards meeting the needs of local communities and residents.

UDP SP3 – Natural, historic and built heritage

a. in order to safeguard the natural heritage of Powys, development proposals will be expected to take account of the need to protect, conserve and wherever possible enhance sites and features of importance for their aesthetic, amenity, biodiversity, ecological, geological, nature conservation, physio-graphical and scientific value.

b. proposals for development should seek to protect, conserve and wherever possible enhance sites and features of historic and built heritage importance including those of archaeological, architectural, heritage conservation and historic interest.

Powys Small Wind Turbine Planning Guidance Note

At this (over 50m) scale of development, the LVIA would be likely to, as a minimum, require:

i. A ZTV map out to 30km;

ii. Visualisations and photomontages, focusing on key viewpoints. The number and location of viewpoints should be proportional to the scale of the development and the sensitivity of the location and should be agreed with the Local Planning Authority;

iii. An assessment of the sensitivity of the landscape (Outstanding’, ‘High’ or ‘Medium’ quality on Landmap), magnitude of change and residual impacts;

iv. A baseplan map of all wind turbine proposals in the public domain to 60km

v. A focussed assessment of all applied, consented or constructed proposals within 30km radius of the application proposal. Further guidance on such cumulative landscape and visual impact assessment.