Armistead

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Armistead
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Applicant/Operator Banks
County Council Cumbria County Council
Planning Authority
Planning Authority Reference
Number of Turbines 6
Power per Turbine 2.5MW
Turbine Height 100m
Position 54° 16' 57" N, 2° 37' 18" WLatitude: 54.2824052
Longitude: -2.6216921
OS Grid Reference
Wind Farm Status Operational
Parliamentary Constituency
Campaigner CPCSL

On October 31st 2008, South Lakeland District Council rejected an application to build a 6 turbine wind farm called Armistead on the Kendal Low Fells by 12 votes to 1. The developer (Banks Developments Ltd) appealed and, after a Public Inquiry and High Court action lasting over 2 years, Banks have finally got their way.

The CPCSL Chairman, Rob McQuarrie said, ‘In today’s atmosphere of ‘community participation’ and power returning to local decision makers this outcome is ironic if not tragic. Cumbria County Council passed an all-Party Motion on 20th November 2008 expressing grave concerns that the current targets for on-shore wind energy in Cumbria rode roughshod over the capacity of our landscapes to satisfactorily accommodate further wind-turbines. A letter recording this remarkable event was sent to the then Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change asking him to reduce onshore wind energy targets.

In addition, the elected District Councillors were against the Armistead proposal; all the affected Parish councils were against it; our MP was against it; and the great majority of the local people were against it – as also were the National Trust, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and Friends of the Lake District. So where did it all go wrong?

Firstly in the Public Inquiry. This took place just four months after Banks appealed – much too quickly to allow the best possible public participation. The Inspector was new to wind farm Inquiries. The Planning Inspectorate allowed Whirlwind Renewables (who wanted to build the adjacent 3 turbine Sillfield wind farm alongside Armistead) to become fully involved and intervene constantly in the proceedings, which greatly hindered an already crowded 8 day Inquiry. The landscape evidence given on behalf of SLDC was sadly deficient.

Secondly, the judgment of the Inspector seemed flawed. This is clear because a different Inspector at the Sillfield Inquiry just a few months later rejected the Whirlwind Renewables appeal. And yet it was only 1.5 km away and overlooked the same intimate drumlin landscape as Armistead. That two inspectors could differ so much calls into question the validity of the system itself.

After the Banks appeal was granted, the local opposing Consortium (the Countryside Protection Consortium of South Lakes) was advised that the Inspector’s decision might be legally flawed. Thus began a frantic struggle involving a legal team experienced in environmental and planning law and a wave of fund-raising that delivered over £60,000 in the two years. This team confirmed that we had a case. A Statutory Appeal was filed and thus began a series of three hearings in the High Court, culminating in the final rejection of our case on January 13th.

It is gratifying that the same local group (CPCSL) defeated the Sillfield application, thus lessening what would have been an even worse impact. But this does not alter the fact that Armistead is on the most prominent ridge in South Lakeland and will be visible over 20 or more kilometres from every point of the compass except where it is hidden by fells to the south and south east. Neither does it alter the fact that several families, notably Brian and Rebecca Barnes, will have to confront these towering monstrosities just a few hundred metres away from their homes for a generation, while the land owners and Banks make a fortune from the massive subsidies given to renewable energy. And all this to make a dribble of erratic electricity and make no significant contribution to reducing carbon dioxide levels.

The Vice-Chairman of CPCSL, Dr Mike Hall, said, ‘…the people of South Lakeland have fought a courageous battle to save what they hold dear. At the end of the day they have been let down by a system which is too heavily slanted towards wind farm development in the pursuit of meaningless targets.’

CPCSL’s Patron, Sir Christopher Audland added ‘….for all those who hold Lakeland scenery dear, the Armistead wind farm will be a horrendous eyesore. As William Wordsworth wrote – of another project to industrialise beautiful scenery – “There is no nook of English ground secure from rash assault”.