Environmental campaigners fear wind farm targets are taking precedence in Northamptonshire

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AN environment group in Northamptonshire has expressed concerns that national targets for building wind farms are taking precedence over local objections.

In recent months, decisions taken by district councils in the county to refuse planning permission for proposed wind farms in Bozeat, Kelmarsh, Boddington and Watford Lodge have all been overturned following an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

Further appeals have also been made following the rejection of planned wind farms in Sudborough, Chelveston, Helmdon, Lilbourne and Winwick.

Sir Paul Hayter, of the Northamptonshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said the Government was not listening to the views of local authorities.

Sir Paul said: “When the least windy part of England is carpeted with wind farms, it is a clear sign that the subsidies are excessive.

“It is also a sign that, despite the much-vaunted Localism Act, we have a planning regime in which national targets take precedence over local decisions.”

The first wind farm decision in the county to be overturned by the Planning Inspectorate was in Yelvertoft in 2010.

Since then, the only wind farm refusal not to be overturned by a Government planning inspector was at Harrington due to the fact the area was designated as grade two listed.

Brian Skittrall, a spokesman for the CPRE, said Northamptonshire was in line to single-handedly meet the entire East Midlands regional target of 175 megawatts of installed capacity.

Mr Skittrall said: “It seems to be now that nothing stops a wind farm from being approved. The Government just seems to use national targets regardless of what local people think.

“In Northamptonshire, 50 megawatts of wind farm capacity has already been approved when the county’s share should be just 17.5 megawatts.

“What is crazy is that Northamptonshire has one of the worst wind resources in the country.”

Conservative MP for south Northamptonshire Andrea Leadsom said last year that subsidy cuts of 10 per cent for wind farm developers could lead to a drop in applications.

But Mr Skittrall said that, even with a 10 per cent cut, developers in low-wind areas like Northamptonshire could still on average expect a virtually “risk-free” return on investment.

Mr Skittrall said he thought the county was a “hot-spot” for developers because the county had no National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or airport exclusion zones, which stop developers building turbines 125m (410ft) high.

Windfarms in Northamptonshire either proposed, built or approved.

1 - Helmdon

2 – Alderton

3 – M1

4 – Salcey Forest

5 – Brackmills

6 – Nun Wood

7 – Chelveston

8 – Ringstead

9 – Burton Wold

10 – Rushton

11 – Cranford

12 – Sudborough

13 – Harrington

14 – Kelmarsh

15 – Long Buckby

16 – Watford Gap

17 – Watford Lodge

18 – Yelvertoft

19 – Crick

20 – Winwick

21 – Boddington