Local landowner Sir Simon Gourlay has made two previous attempts to obtain planning permission for wind turbines on Stonewall Hill, first in 1994, and again in 1996. These previous schemes involved turbines straddling both sides of the border between England and Wales. Each time, there was a massive public rejection of these plans and, each time, the relevant local councils refused the planning application.
In 1996, the then Leominster District Council Planning Committee ruled:
The impact of the number and size of the turbines proposed would be seriously detrimental to:
• The character and appearance of Reeves Hill which lies within an area designated as an Area of Great Landscape Value;
• The visual amenities and public enjoyment of surrounding upland areas, including the South Shropshire AONB and Offa’s Dyke Trail.
This ruling is close to Powys Council’s 2009 grounds for recommending that Herefordshire Council should refuse the current application:
• The proposed wind farm by virtue of its location and size of machines would have a substantial detrimental impact as it cannot be accommodated without becoming a dominant and disruptive focal point in a traditional landscape which is remarkable for the integrity of its natural landform and undeveloped character.
• Reeves Hill has the unique quality, highly valued by the public, of being one of the few places on the English/Welsh Border accessible to all and which gives unrestricted views of a landscape untouched by modern buildings and structures and whose visual amenity and enjoyment the development would destroy.
• The proposal would have a substantial detrimental impact on the coherence, integrity and enjoyment of the unique cultural and historic landscape of the area, in particular by virtue of its effects on the Offa’s Dyke Ancient Monument and Long Distance Footpath and the Stanage Park Grade I Historic Park and Gardens and Grade II* Listed Building.
The planning history, set out below, shows how an alliance between Sir Simon Gourlay and Bolsterstone Plc., a Chesterfield-based property development and investment company, is seeking to get round these setbacks by exploiting a new planning regime and by depriving Powys Council of their decision-making powers. The more local Leominster District Council has been subsumed under a new Herefordshire Unitary Authority which is under pressure to deliver on renewables obligations. As most Hereford councillors live far to the south and east of the county and are keen to protect their own backyards, remote Stonewall Hill on the Powys border might have seemed a convenient sacrificial lamb.
Throughout the current round of applications, the developers’ strategy has been to rely on a compliant Herefordshire Council to issue planning permission and to then present Powys Council with a fait accompli. The proposed wind farm would arguably affect Powys more than Herefordshire. Access would be in Powys via a much-widened Llanshay Lane and road over Stonewall Hill and the major border settlements of Presteigne, Norton and Knighton are all in Powys – as is the Grade I listed Stanage Park. But by siting fewer, larger turbines only some 100 metres inside the Herefordshire side of the border, the developers have sought to exclude Powys from any decision on the impact of the huge turbines and to confine them to a decision on access alone. This was why the developers tried – and failed – to challenge the Welsh Assembly Government’s ruling that Powys should consider the wind farm along with the access.
The developers’ cynical manipulation of the planning regime flies in the face of local democracy. A history of massive local opposition stretches back over 20 years with over 1000 letters of objection sent to Herefordshire Council and with all neighbouring local councils and 93% of Norton parishioners voting to reject the current scheme. The developers’ manoeuvres also fly in the face of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government’s recent planning guidance concerning the protection of landscape, heritage and local amenity and the need to consider the views of local communities.
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18 December 2014. Gourlay and Hodnetts, the landowners involved in Reeves Hill Wind Farm, apply to Herefordshire Council (see letter) to make ‘non-material amendments’ to the conditions attached to the consent for application DCNW2008/1289/F (RHWF).
These conditions stipulate that the the access arrangements must be completed before any work on the wind farm (Herefordshire). With no determination date for the application for access (P/2012/0573) yet in sight from Powys, the developers would be hard-pressed to meet this condition before Herefordshire’s consent expires on 24 April 2015. To get round this, the proposed very material amendments would allow wind farm development, other than on the turbine foundations, to proceed before Powys determines access and before Herefordshire’s wind farm consent expires.
15 September 2014. After a 4-month delay, Dulas / Bolsterstone finally submit all the relevant documents relating to Planning Application P/2012/0573, Access Track and Highways Improvements to the Reeves Hill Wind Farm, to Powys County Council. Powys announces re-consultation with final deadline of 17 October 2014.
01 July 2014. Bowdler Farm Single Turbine Appeal Dismissed. See here for Planning Inspector Kay Sheffield’s decision.
28 April 2014. Dulas / Bolsterstone submit a revised version of Planning Application P/2012/0573, Access Track and Highways Improvements to the Reeves Hill Wind Farm, to Powys County Council.
In support of this application, the following documents were submitted by Dulas to Powys Council:
- Cover Letter;
- Planning Statement;
- Design and Access Statement;
- Environmental Statement; Es App. 1.1 WAG Direction Letter; ES App. 1.2 Powys CC Scoping Opinion; ES App. 1.3 Powys Scoping Opinion re Built Heritage; ES App. 5 Construction Traffic Management Plan; ES App. 6 Archaeological Assessment; ES App. 8.1 Ecology Report 2008; ES App. 8.2 Ecology Report 2011; ES App. 11 Rainfall Runoff. There are also a large number of figures which have not been uploaded here but which can be accessed through the Powys Council planning website
- Non Technical Summary; NTS Fig. 1 Site Location Plan; NTS Fig. 2a Application Site Plan; NTS Fig. 2b Application Site Plan; NTS Fig. 2c Application Site Plan; NTS Fig. 3 PRoW Site Area; NTS Fig. 4 PRoW 5km Study Area.
- Original Reeves Hill Environmental Statement submitted to Herefordshire Council in May 2008.Note here that the Full Environmental Statement on which Herefordshire Council’s consent decision was based also includes Dulas’ Supplementary Environmental Report and Further Supplementary Environmental Information (see below). In addition, although the application for access makes much of the fact that Herefordshire Council has granted consent to the wind farm, the relevant Planning Permission document was not included with this application. Dulas / Bolsterstone’s 28 April application to Powys Council was therefore incomplete.
17 Sept. 2013. Bolsterstone PLC abandon their Judicial review proceedings against the Welsh Assembly Government.
25 July 2013. Welsh Assembly Government require Environmental Impact Assessment for Planning Application P/2013/0239 for a single 79m turbine at Bowdler Farm. Knighton. See letter.
9 July 2013. Bolsterstone PLC granted Judicial review of the Welsh Assembly Government’s advice that Planning Application P/2012/0573, for Powys Highways Access to Reeves Hill Community Wind Energy Scheme, must be accompanied by Environmental Impact Assessment. See judgement.
20 June 2013. Powys Council approves application for an anemometer mast at Bowdler Farm.
25 Apr. 2013. Powys Council hears application P/2013/0239 for a single 79m turbine at Bowdler Farm. Knighton See report OR Bevan Mast.
22 Jan. 2013. Herefordshire Council revokes approval of application N121404/F. See Revocation Order.
13 Aug. 2012. Dulas / Bolsterstone submit Section 73 application N121404/F to Herefordshire Council to vary conditions relating to access tracks. See Covering letter.
8 May 2012 Dulas / Bolsterstone submit Planning Application P/2012/0573, for Powys Highways Access to Reeves Hill Community Wind Energy Scheme to Powys County Council. See Cover letter, Environmental Report and Design and Access Statement, Construction Traffic Management Plan, Figures.
25 April 2012. Herefordshire Council issue planning permission for “Reeves Hill Community Wind Energy Scheme”. See Decision Notice, Legal Agreement, Community Benefits Agreement, Highways Bond, Landscape Enhancement Fund Agreement, Site Plan.
14 Sept. 2011. Herefordshire Planning Committee resolves to approve Application DCNW2008/1289/F. See Herefordshire Officer’s Report 14.09.2011.
Oct. 2010. Dulas / Bolsterstone submit Further Supplementary Environmental Information to Herefordshire Council. See Further Supplementary Environmental Information.
5 Aug. 2010. Herefordshire issue second Reg. 19 request to Developers for further information on Visual Impact and Hydrology / Hydrogeology. See Herefordshire letter to Dulas 05.08.2010.
30 Nov 2009 Herefordshire issue Reg. 19 request to Developers for further information on Wind shear and other noise data and the proposed Landscape Enhancement Fund. See Herefordshire letter to Dulas 30.11.2009.
12 Feb. 2009. Herefordshire Planning Committee resolve to approve Application DCNW2008/1289/F. See Herefordshire Officers Report 12.02.2009.
2008. Dulas / Bolsterstone submit Application P/2008/1462 to Powys County Council for a new access route to, and modifications to, Llanshay Lane. Application later withdrawn.
May 2008. Developers Bolsterstone Plc and their agents Dulas submit Planning Application DCNW2008/1289/F for “Reeves Hill Community Wind Energy Scheme” (9.2 MW; four 106m high turbines) to Herefordshire Council. See Environmental Statement.