AN APPEAL to overturn a rejected planning application for a wind farm is being reviewed by a government minister, amid uproar from residents.
RES, the energy company proposing the four-turbine Swift Wind Farm near Churchover, is appealing against Rugby Borough Council’s decision to turn down the application in April on grounds it might interfere with air traffic communications systems.
But communities minister Eric Pickles ‘called in’ the appeal – normally only done if the application conflicts with national policy.
The minister introduced new guidelines last year telling planning authorities local people’s concerns about wind farms should take precedence over the need for renewable energy.
Dan Patterson, RES Project Manager, said: “We believe that we have very strong grounds for appeal.
“RES has been consulting with the organisation responsible for national air traffic, NATS, since 2012 to understand their concerns.
“To date, we have not been given any evidence that the wind farm would have any effect at all.”
He said he wanted the appeal process to consider whether “a theoretical impact for which there is likely to be a workable solution” should outweigh the benefits of “a well-designed wind farm that can deliver clean, renewable electricity and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels”.
But Lorne Smith, coordinator of pressure group Against Subsidised Wind turbines Around Rugby (ASWAR) disagreed.
He said: “We do not agree that a tiny amount of costly, intermittent energy from wind turbines is more important than air traffic safety, nor the industrialising of an historic conservation village in a vital green lung between Rugby and Lutterworth.”
He added Churchover Parish Council and ASWAR had launched an appeal to raise £10,000 to hire a top lawyer to lead their case, and thanked MP Mark Pawsey for lobbying Mr Pickles on behalf of the community.
Mr Smith said: “If the community’s excellent argument is well presented at the Inspector’s appeal, the call-in makes it much more likely that the decision will go against the turbines.”
Mr Pawsey said the community had legitimate concerns about the proposals’ potential impact on the area.
He told The Observer: “Since the wind farm proposals were first put forward, I have worked closely with the local community and ASWAR to ensure their voices are heard within Government and I can only praise the tenacity and commitment of everyone involved to this point.
“It is only right that the Secretary of State has called-in the appeal to review it.”
Rugby Borough Council’s economy spokeswoman Coun Heather Timms said the borough council had turned down the application based on evidence provided by the applicants, weighed up against local and national planning policies.
She added the applicants had a right to appeal the decision which would consider any new evidence provided.
Visit www.aswar.org.uk/content/donations for ASWAR’s online fundraising appeal.