Arcus have gained planning permission for United Utilities for a 500kW wind turbine, 68 m to tip, at Mitchell’s House Reservoirs near Accrington in Lancashire. Despite the Planning Officer recommending refusal of the application the Development Control Committee overturned the recommendation, voting to approve the application.
Arcus has been involved in the whole project lifecycle, from initial feasibility, constraints identification and design through to planning application submission and post submission support. Arcus led all planning services and application coordination and provided the majority of technical and environmental support services to United Utilities during the preparation of the planning application, including visual, archaeology and cultural heritage, hydrology and drainage, ecology and ornithology, and coal mining risk assessment.
The turbine is located on a south facing slope east of the A56 near Accrington in Lancashire, above two large reservoirs and a water treatment works operated by United Utilities. The wind turbine will serve the treatment works with excess generation exported to the grid. The turbine is proposed as part of a wider renewable energy strategy to provide some degree of protection against interruptions to supply and fluctuating prices. United Utilities provide 7 million customers with clean fresh drinking water and wastewater treatment each day, which requires a significant amount of energy.
The turbine sought to minimise landscape and visual impacts by avoiding higher land whilst also giving consideration to a range of technical and environmental constraints including impact on the Hameldon Hill Met Radar, telecommunication links, proximity to residential properties, having a suitable elevation and aspect and separation from the reservoirs.
The application was validated just prior to the Written Ministerial Statement regarding Onshore Wind Energy Development, published in June 2015. Under the transitional arrangements set out in the statement the application needed to demonstrate that it had the backing of the local community. United Utilities undertook pre-application consultation which Arcus provided for the application. Arcus also responded to responses received during the consideration of the application. Only one member of public submitted a written objection and it was clear that the concerns raised had been adequately addressed by the application, and the Council were in agreement with this.
The main issues resolved post submission included a Met Office objection (as the turbine was located approximately 2 km from the Hameldon Hill Met Radar), MoD objection and objections from public rights of way bodies due to potential impacts on a bridleway. Aviation/ Radar consultants were engaged to negotiate planning conditions acceptable to both the Met Office and MoD. Arcus coordinated a site meeting with the rights of way bodies and agreed to the provision of an additional permissive bridleway route as part of the Development, taking riders further away from the turbine. This route was agreed in principal and a condition negotiated to ensure its delivery.
Arcus’s proactive approach to dealing with problems as they arose let to potential reasons for refusal being removed during the post submission stage giving the application the best chance of gaining consent. Arcus also made a strong presentation to the Development Control Committee and used this as an opportunity to emphasise the benefits of the Development, clarify some of the impacts and urge committee members to approve the application.
Given the current climate for renewables, particularly onshore wind, in England, this decision is considered to be a fantastic result.