Wind farms 'will blight National Park landscape'

The conflict between the need to build wind farms in the battle against climate change and the need to preserve the country's landscape heritage has been highlighted in a High Court legal challenge.

The Peak District National Park Authority was attacking plans to build four 102m (335ft) wind turbines at Carsington Pastures, between Matlock and Ashbourne. The proposed site is just outside the park and adjoins the Carsington Water beauty spot.

The scheme has been condemned by both local residents and tourists who enjoy walking the area, which includes the High Peak Trail, the Limestone Way and local paths.

The legal challenge has important general implications for wind farms near national parks. Although it supports renewable energy schemes in principle, the Peak park authority fears the giant turbines will have a harmful visual impact on an otherwise protected landscape.

The authority and Derbyshire Dales District Council are jointly asking Lord Justice Carnwath, sitting at the High Court in London, to quash a planning inspector's decision last September to approve the proposal.

Communities Secretary John Denham and the developers, Carsington Wind Energy Ltd, are opposing the application.

They argued in court that the inspector "reached a conclusion that is unimpeachable in terms of planning judgment".

In his decision report, planning inspector Robin Brooks said: "I have concluded that the proposal would not unacceptably diminish the enjoyment of the countryside for the great majority of visitors to the Peak District National Park and Derbyshire in general, or of local residents."

Anthony Crean QC, appearing for the park and council, argued the inspector had misconstrued planning law.

He had made a fundamental error by concluding it was not necessary for him to consider whether the need for renewable energy could be met on some other site where less harm would be caused, said Mr Crean.

The inspector had found the harm that would be caused would be limited, and was outweighed by the national need for renewable energy.

A spokesperson for the park authority said in a statement outside court: "The Peak District National Park was created to protect the area from the pressure of development from surrounding urban areas.

"We do not think the planning inspector gave sufficient weight to the purposes of national parks when considering the impact that these four 102m turbines would have on the countryside and views of the national park.

"The authority supports renewable energy schemes in principle but believes that all other alternative locations should be considered first when planning a development of this scale so close to the national park boundary. This application would have a direct visual impact on the national park.

"This is an important case because the decision could have implications for future wind farm applications near to other national parks in the UK."

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