Alaska Advice Stokes Success in Dorset

10 Oct 2012

RPS has won planning permission for the Alaska wind farm: four 125m wind turbines at Masters Quarry in East Stoke, Dorset following a successful appeal, where we gave evidence on landscape, noise and planning and energy policy.

Following our appointment by Infinergy Limited to identify a suitable Dorset site, RPS was instructed to progress a four turbine scheme on land being used for sand and gravel extraction, after providing constraints mapping of the county, including wind speeds. RPS obtained a scoping opinion from the Council then progressed the final scheme design, liaising with consultees, undertaking an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and submitting the planning application.

A number of constraints exist including the extraction activities and ecology issues. RPS conducted detailed surveys for bats and birds including nightjar (using thermal imaging cameras) and honey buzzard, and advised on historic environment and visual impact - the site is 800m from an AONB; hydrology and hydrogeology.

RPS’ Oxford office managed and coordinated the EIA. Consultants from our Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, London and Manchester offices assessed the following in preparing the environmental statement:

  • Traffic, access and transport
  • Landscape and visual change
  • Cultural heritage
  • Terrestrial ecology1
  • Ornithology
  • Hydrology, hydrogeology and land contamination
  • Shadow flicker
  • Socio-economics, recreation and land use

RPS' Oxford office provided a planning support statement, design and access statement and submitted the planning application.

Despite initial resolution to approve the application, Purbeck District Council subsequently decided planning conditions could not mitigate visual and noise effects for local residents, users of a scout camping ground and nearby bridleway and refused permission.

RPS acted as expert witness at the lengthy public inquiry where we successfully countered all objections including those relating to amplitude modulation, sleep disorder and effects for autistic persons residing in a nearby care home. As part of the evidence, RPS produced a residential visual amenity assessment (RVAA) using LiDAR to carefully map the views of the turbines from residential properties which demonstrated the limited effects for local residents and was described during the Inquiry by the Inspector as the best he had read.

The appeal was allowed on 6 July 2012. In reaching his decision the Inspector concluded that "Having regard to all the matters raised, the environmental and economic benefits of granting planning permission for the development would significantly outweigh the limited degree of harm that would occur.

1 Including surveys for bats, badgers, reptiles and amphibians.

2 The Inquiry sat for nine days over a three-week period in April 2012, just after the National Planning Policy Framework was released. RPS gave evidence on landscape and visual impact, residential amenity, noise, planning and energy policy. The witnesses were faced with cross examination from Counsel representing the Council and Counsel representing an objector group that was given rule 6 party status.

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