Eric Pickles to make final decision on Upper Vaunces wind farm plans

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The final decision on a three turbine wind farm on agricultural land in four parishes will be taken by communities secretary Eric Pickles, ministers have confirmed.

In a letter received by MP for South Norfolk Richard Bacon from Planning Minister Kris Hopkins, it was confirmed Mr Pickles would make the decision on the proposed plans.

Oxfordshire-based TCI Renewables hopes to place the wind farm on Upper Vaunces farm, between the four villages of Dickleburgh, Pulham Market, Pulham and Rushall.

The decision was praised by Mr Bacon, who made strong representations on behalf of local residents to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

“I am very pleased that Mr Hopkins has recovered this appeal so that Eric Pickles can take the final decision,” he said.

“It is bad for democracy if planning decisions taken locally are overridden by national policies at appeal.

“The whole purpose of localism is to give local communities greater control over local decisions like housing and planning. Eric Pickles can look at these issues in the round and come to a balanced conclusion that gives proper weight to local views.”

The Planning Inquiry on the proposed wind farm closed in January. But Section 79 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 empowers the Secretary of State to ‘recover’ a planning appeal for their own determination, until a decision is issued by the inspector.

The three turbines would stand at 126m-high, and could power up to 4,000 homes annually. A previous proposal from TCI Renewables was dismissed at appeal by a Planning Inspector in October 2012. Concern was raised over the impact on the setting of St Mary’s Church and harm to the landscape character to the south of the site around Rushall, and the effect of living conditions in Lowbrook Farm, Dickleburgh.

On its website, TCI Renewables state these concerns have been addressed, moving the turbines away from the church, providing a tighter group of turbines, and creating greater separation between the turbines and residential properties.

Mr Pickles will also decide the fate of plans to build three turbines in Hempnall, also submitted by TCI Renewables, for a site at Bussey’s Loke.

South Norfolk Council’s planning committee voted 7-4 in favour of refusal in January, but the decision was made knowing the plans were going to appeal anyway, under a ‘non-determination’ rule where the council had not made its decision within a statutory time frame.