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Leicestershire County Council objection
LAND AT CESTERSOVER FARM/SWIFT WIND FARM
LANDSCAPE COMMENTS FROM LEICESTERSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL
The County Council at its meeting in December 2012 noted with concern the potential damage to the rural landscape of Leicestershire which could arise from a proliferation of wind turbines, and the unrest in rural communities who perceive themselves threatened by turbines, especially the very large ones.The County Council’s position is set out in full in Appendix A..
Leicestershire County Council’s Green Infrastructure Team was consulted in June 2013 on the location of viewpoints within Leicestershire for the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) forming part of this application. The following comments on the LVIA now submitted are made in the light of that earlier consultation and relate only to those parts of the assessment relevant to Leicestershire. Unless otherwise stated paragraphs numbers refer to the LVIA.
6.1.3 – fails to mention Cotesbach, only 2.0km from the site
6.2.34 – fails to mention Leicestershire County Council’s Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Landscape and Woodland Strategy, although I note that this is referred to at 6.4.14 in the context of the more recent Harborough District Council Landscape Character Assessment.
6.3.1 – it is disappointing that the additional viewpoints put forward by the County Council were not included in the assessment, in particular the Croft Hill viewpoint. This is not in Charnwood Forest (as stated here) but was requested for inclusion as a proxy viewpoint for the higher parts of the Charnwood Forest Regional Park, which although beyond the 25km study boundary experience views including the existing large wind turbines in the Lutterworth area. However, it is acknowledged that the visual impacts at such a distance would not be assessed as significant.
6.3.62 - acknowledges that each route, settlement or location will [LCC1] encompass a range of possible views; it should be noted that these will be experienced sequentially and repeatedly by residents as they move around their local area on a day to day basis.
6.4.30 – states that at distances beyond 15km the turbines would only be visible in clear conditions, with vegetation likely to screen views. This is clearly not the case where views are from elevated locations, such as high points within Charnwood Forest
6.6.42 – it is clear that the assessment of impacts on the Lutterworth Lowlands landscape character area is very much influenced by the changes which have taken place in recent years with the construction of windfarms at Low Spinney, Swinford and Yelvertoft, which the assessment acknowledges would be commonly seen with the proposed turbines in locations within 1.00km of the development. (6.7.17 also reflects the way in which the character of the Lutterworth Lowlands is now seen to be informed by the presence of wind turbines and 6.6.94 suggests that, in the context of views from the M1, the presence of existing large turbines locally will moderate perceptions of change arising from the proposed development.)
6.6.48 – suggests that large scale visual effects are confined to a limited area, approximately up to 2.50km from the development. Within Leicestershire viewpoint 4 is located within this area,1.40km from nearest turbine. Table 6.3 sets out the scale of visual effect here as ‘Large’. However, the assessment for this individual viewpoint as shown on Fig 6.19.4 WF describes the scale of the effect here as only ‘Medium’, defined as creating only a ‘partial alteration to the character and composition of the view’ and leading to the baseline situation being ‘noticeably changed’. I believe that the correct assessment here would be of a large scale effect ie one which creates ‘a major alteration to the character and composition of the view’ and leads to the baseline situation being ‘fundamentally changed’. Crucially at this viewpoint no existing turbines are visible and the development would introduce these large scale structures into a predominantly rural scene. Although the development at Magna Park is visible as part of the wider panorama, the introduction of turbines would have a greater impact because of the movement inherent in their operation.
6.6.48 – states that tracks are a typical element in an agricultural landscape; whilst this is correct, the width of the tracks and the extent of the network associated with the development differ in scale from typical agricultural tracks. (Although 4.7.31 in Chapter 4 covers the treatment of excess spoil arising from the construction of the access tracks, it is unclear how much excess spoil will be generated by the development as a whole, particularly from the construction of foundations, and how this will be dealt with; it may be that the Construction Method Statement referred to at 4.8.9 would adequately cover this issue.)
6.6.50/Table 6.3 - at viewpoint 7, 2.80km from the nearest turbine, the scale of the effect is assessed as ‘Medium’. Whilst the distance to the nearest turbine is greater than at viewpoint 4, the development would again introduce turbines into a view where none are visible at present.
6.9.1 – whilst it is accepted that the opportunities for reducing the visual impact of wind turbines through landscape initiatives are extremely limited, there is scope to require the implementation of a hedgerow management plan for the whole of the development site for the full term of the development. Provision for hedges to be allowed to grow up and be maintained at heights of around 2.50-3.50m, as well as provision for gapping up and new hedgerow tree planting, would enhance local landscape character and give some localised visual mitigation as well as having ecological benefits. This plan could form part of the proposed Ecological Management Plan; I note that from an ecological point of view Appendix 8.6, para 2.3 identifies the hedgerows as being predominantly in good condition, but a hedgerow management plan would help to ensure the continuation of this situation.
I would have liked to see greater reference to Registered Parks and Gardens (RPG) within this assessment, although I note that they are assessed within Chapter 10 : Cultural Heritage. 6.4.82 refers to only two RPG being located within the 10km study area; para 10.5.5 of Chapter 10 correctly identifies there as being five.
Senior Landscape Architect
Green Infrastructure Team
Leicestershire County Council
9th January 2014