Energy firm welcomes Weybourne cables appeal vote

A decision to send back to a committee controversial plans that would help pave the way for a huge offshore windfarm has been hailed as the right decision for a 'silent majority'.

Members of cash-strapped North Norfolk District Council voted not to spend �100,000 defending an appeal against Warwick Energy, after they threw out plans to bury 28km of cables to power the �1.5bn Dudgeon windfarm.

The decision means the planning committee that rejected the scheme last month will now have to reconsider it.

Mark Petterson, project director at Warwick, thought the vote was the 'right result' and showed 'common sense' was beginning to prevail.

He added: 'You could argue the silent majority are finally getting their say. It's not as if this area is unknown to this type of project, you have got an established underground cable route from Sheringham Shoal, which has gone in without problem.'

But opponents to the cable plan, which would run from Weybourne to Great Ryburgh and link with the 17km of lines given approval to be laid through Breckland district, branded the vote a 'disgrace'.

Michael Baker, who led the call to reject the proposals in January, could not believe the council was prepared to give democracy away 'for a few silver coins' and added: 'We can't possibly go back to our constituents and say 'to uphold democracy it might cost you two pence on your rates'.'

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Speaking after Wednesday's meeting he added: 'The decision at full council was a sad day for democracy. The development committee decision was democratic and we have been told 'this is not the answer we want: go back and think again'.'

But members who were against setting aside the six-figure sum argued the appeal was a battle they could not afford as they continued to face a funding squeeze.

Eric Seward said the authority had to consider the risks if it lost the appeal, as it could also be liable to costs which could double the already hefty defence bill.

'In the context of that I won't be able to go back to my constituents in North Walsham and say not only have we spent �100,000 but maybe double that, in fighting a case we couldn't possibly win.'

Warwick will now continue to work towards the appeal, scheduled to take place in May as a six-day public inquiry.

Mr Petterson said: 'If North Norfolk want to change their mind then it's up to them, but it's not something we're assuming.'

The firm is already facing a high court battle in a bid to push through its plans to build a sub-station at Little Dunham, after two government ministers rejected its appeal when the plans were thrown out by Breckland District Council.

Warwick has said the 168 turbine farm, to be built off the coast at Cromer, would generate enough electricity to power 400,000 homes.

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