Inquiry into Weybourne to Great Ryburgh cabling route for Dudgeon wind farm opens

The inquiry into the refusal of an energy firm's bid to bury 28km of cabling that is crucial to its proposed �1.5bn offshore windfarm began today.

But North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) - which triggered the appeal hearing by objecting to the cable route - will not be opposing the evidence put forward by Warwick Energy, as members decided they did not have the money to fight the planning battle.

At a meeting in March the development committee voted to 'invite the inspector to grant planning permission' sparking outcry among those who voted to get the cabling plans thrown out, on landscape and agricultural economy grounds.

Roger Howe, NNDC's planning legal manager, is representing the authority during the inquiry and said he will not be defending the appeal but will be making representations with regard to conditions, should inspector Philip Asquith allow planning permission.

During his opening speech Richard Kimblin, representing Warwick, said the council's invitation for the plans to be passed was the 'only realistic position to take'.

Mr Kimblin said Warwick had chosen the more expensive option of burying the cables from Weybourne to Great Ryburgh - rather than running them overhead - to minimise any environmental impact, and on the back of a 'strong steer' from the council's planning officers.

'It was somewhat frustrating for the proposal to be met with objections on landscape grounds,' he added. 'The appellant's case is that the long term effects of the proposal will be of landscape benefits. In particular... as a direct result of this scheme very many hedges will be reinstated and improved.

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'The cable route and reinstatement methods will ensure adverse landscape and visual effects are minimised as far as reasonably practicable.'

The inquiry is expected to continue for the rest of the day before Mr Asquith visits the site of the cable route tomorrow (Friday).

Warwick will call two expert witnesses today and Mr Howe is expected to ask the inspector to impose strong conditions to ensure the cabling trenches are not left open for long and to request that NNDC does not have to meet Warwick's legal costs.

After the inquiry a decision is expected in four to six weeks.

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