Does the current planning system deliver for the public benefit?

We enjoyed a lovely day on Thorne Moors yesterday.  The weather was kind, the wildlife relatively obliging.  A majestic Marsh Harrier dodged the turbine blades whilst delightful Reed Buntings fed on seeds heads floating on bog pools.

The downside when you are out in the open is that no matter what direction you look out across you see massive metal structures.  For me they destroy that sense of wilderness.  It is said by some that they are beautiful and each to their own, but they are not a natural feature and for me that is why people visit the moors.  They seek to be at peace with and experience the enjoyment nature offers.  Majestic Marsh Harriers float effortlessly, but for how much longer as more and more wind turbines become a feature of the farmed landscape on the Humberhead Levels We hear constantly about food security, land needed to allieviate floods (to act as flood plains) but here we are industrialising the countryside and depositing hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2 emitting cement into land already saturated with recent precipitation.  As well as loss of soak away, there is potential risk to the hydrological integrity of the nearby peat body, 1900 hectares or 4695 acres in ‘old money’ of stored carbon.  As the bog continues to regenerate it builds capacity to sequester more carbon, but foundations so close in hot dry summers risks potential lateral damage?

130705 RoS Thorne TM 100

The Forum is not oppossed to renewable energy, it recognises the need for a mix if we are to have energy sustainability.  It believes that we should harness nature’s bounty but to do so there must be a balance and a level playing field and the politics of renewables does not appear to be good for climate change with some types favoured more than others?  In the interim, read a recent Guardian article relating to Drax.  This clearly illustrates the issues facing energy generation and the impact that politics and their preferences can cause.  Whilst the blades turn subsidies for the agricultural industry, nearby Drax on spinning reserve is guilty of inefficient production to accommodate renewable provision?

In around 2006-7 we were aware that there were 367 turbines at various stages of application planned for the Humberhead Levels.  The metaphoric storm arrived when Tween Bridge was signed off along with Keadby at a Public Inquiry held in Goole!   Airmyn, Goole Fields I and Goole Fields II soon followed.  You only have to look at the October 2009 map produced by Natural England which illustrates wind farms and biomass schemes to see the scale of industrialisation.  Fill in the gaps created in the intervening five years and there’s no wonder you get a feeling of monsters marching across the moors and marshes of the Humberhead Levels.

140228 TM hrk 716Local feeling appears to believe that enough is enough, in the background a turbine on the northern periphery of Thorne Moors SSSI.

Recent schemes being worked up include seven turbines for the Old River Don at Crowle.  There are another five being applied for near Rawcliffe Bridge (north western periphery of Thorne Moors) details can accessed via ERYC 13 / 04183 / STPLFE  The East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s planning portal can be accessed and details of the application read, along with the supporting documentation and comments received and submitted by neighbours, councillors etc.  Please note that the closing date for comments (supporting or objections) must be made by 5 March 2014.

Erection of five wind turbines with a maximum blade tip height of up to 131 metres together with a substation and control building, upgraded access track, connecting internal tracks, associated hardstanding and infrastructure.  Land East Of Bank House, Bridge Lane, Rawcliffe Bridge, East Riding Of Yorkshire.   

The towers proposed at this site will be the largest yet constructed around Thorne Moors SSSI.  To date Natural England have failed to make any comment on the proposal.  But, have they been consulted?  By law they are a statutory consultee.

What is clear is that the planning system remains something of a piece meal system and because the Humberhead Levels is a natural area and administered by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council and North Lincolnshire Council and it also has near neighbours in Nottinghamshire County Council and Selby District Council.  What a mire of planning complexities to wrestle with, if like the Forum you take an interest in the countryside, the landscape and environmental conservation?  Then factor in what is within the remit of the Local Planning Authority (LPA) or what developments fall to centralised Government Departments to approve.  Then there’s a system which allows developers whose applications are refused to appeal.  In the current financial climate is there any wonder that Local Councils approve commercial developments for fear of Public Inquiry costs?  Conversely, if the development is approved the public have NO right of appeal, there is no local community challenge unless the LPA process is flawed and ONLY then can the local community challenge the decision through a Judicial Review (JR).  If they are deemed in the High Court to have grounds, then they need very deep pockets to fund any challenge.  They need nerves of steel and tenacity and there are very few groups who have successfully challenged developers set upon commercial paths.  If a JR is successful, then it does not refuse the application it only returns the application to the start of the application process.

But …. take heart anyone considering wrestling the planning system, a consortium have recently challenged Derby CC over a development and they have been granted a Judicial Review.  If we go back sometime then there were some pretty historic and important landmark challenges which we would do well to remember when the long day seems never ending, the Flamborough Hedgerow case was one such case when principle won the day.  Colin Seymour was the locus standi in this case and subsequently he went on to become something of a local hero if you believe in the rights of local people to challenge authority when it is in error based on historic legal evidence and extant law.  See also the Protection of Field Boundaries.  Another very important High Court judgement involved a quarrying development at Preston under Scar (North Yorkshire).  Richard Buxton was the lawyer representing the locus standi applicants in 1999 and he is involved in the above detailed Derby CC case, so watch this space for updates!

Without strategic planning and the application of sound common sense, then how much longer before a 360 degree ring of steel strangles Thorne Moors SSSI and the wilderness many of us grew up with will be no ‘moor’?   As a colleague remarked …. we knew the moors at their best, before anthromorphic greed and ‘muzzled watchdogs’ abandoned them.   Are politics about people or are they primarily about profit for particular people?   Can a phoenix rise from the ashes, will a community challenge?

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


%d bloggers like this: