A SIX-YEAR battle against a mooted windfarm in Churchover has finally come to an end after the plans were officially dismissed by a government minister.
Communities and Local Government minister Greg Clark dismissed the proposal to build the Swift Wind Farm near the village, saying: “The degree of harm to landscape, visual amenity and heritage interests is considerably greater than the appellant or the Council acknowledge.”
His comments marked the failure of an appeal by energy firm RES to overturn Rugby Borough Council’s refusal of their initial planning application in 2013.
Karen Down of Churchover Parish Council, which has worked with campaign group Against Subsidised Windfarms Around Rugby (ASWAR), said: “This is great news for a small community which has fought against the threat of a windfarm for some six years.
“We would like to thank the numerous people both locally, nationally and indeed internationally, who have all had a role in helping not just the battles along the way but now being on the verge of winning the final war against the subsidy speculators.”
ASWAR is now considering further action – including lobbying against a 60-acre solar park application still hanging over Churchover, which has been described by Rugby and Bulkington MP Mark Pawsey as ‘abominable’.
The pressure group also called for Rugby Borough Council to apologise to those who had campaigned against the plans.
Karen said: “We feel the council let us down very badly. We have spent a great deal of time and money, including costly legal fees just to put us on a level playing field, to fight against a plan which should never have seen any consideration past the first refusals.”
But a spokesman for Rugby Borough Council pointed out Mr Clark’s verdict reached the same conclusions as the borough council’s planning committee, albeit for different reasons.
Referring to Mr Clark’s statement last year declaring local residents must have the final say on onshore wind farm applications, he added: “We welcome the clarity of this decision and note the weight given to the Secretary of State’s written ministerial statement on local planning that was issued on 18 June 2015, more than a year after the council had determined this planning application.”
RES’ Development Manager for Swift Wind Farm, Daniel Patterson, described the decision as extremely disappointing news.
He said: “Our engagement throughout the planning process enabled us to identify issues of concern, explore solutions, and design a low-impact project which we have always believed would be a positive asset welcomed by the local community.
“It is therefore a sad indictment that the demonstrable support shown from within the region for both onshore wind and this project specifically was not enough to stop local people losing out on the very significant economic and environmental benefits this wind farm would have provided.”
The wind farm would have been capable of generating enough renewable electricity to power over 5,000 homes every year – around 12 per cent of all homes in the Rugby area.
RES’ original application was refused in 2013 on grounds that the wind turbines might interfere with air traffic control signals.
The objection was subsequently withdrawn, prompting a second application in April last year which was declared invalid by the council because the company had not carried out a further public consultation.