Inspector backs developer over Weybourne to Great Ryburgh cables for 168-turbine Dudgeon windfarm

Another obstacle has been cleared for a huge offshore windfarm after an inspector ruled against a council's refusal of the underground cabling needed for the development.

Philip Asquith backed Warwick Energy's appeal, which came after North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) planners rejected the 28km of buried cables from Weybourne to Great Ryburgh.

They hold the key to transporting power from the planned 168-turbine Dudgeon windfarm off Cromer to a substation at Little Dunham - a facility which has yet to gain planning consent.

After planners in January rejected the application for the cables amid concerns about landscpa eand agricultural impact, Warwick lodged its appeal.

The saga took a new twist when NNDC took advice from counsel and voted to not defend the appeal, fearing the possibility of defeat and a six-figure costs bill.

In his findings, which followed a two-day hearing in May, Mr Asquith said: 'The appeal is allowed and planning permission is granted for that part of a buried cable systems relating to the Dudgeon offshore windfarm between the landfall point at Weybourne Hope and the North Norfolk district boundary near Great Ryburgh in accordance with the terms of the application.

'I do not consider the proposal would result in any material harm to the appearance and character of the area beyond the initial construction phase. Nor would there be any significant adverse effect on agriculture or other land uses.'

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He added that the 'limited' impacts would be outweighed by the advantages a major supplier of renewable energy would bring.

The Dudgeon site is located 32km offshore from Cromer and power generation could commence by late 2015. But the exact location of the onshore substation is still to be decided.

Warwick project director Mark Petterson said: 'We are pleased these necessary cable consents have been granted and reflect our commitment to work closely with local communities and their representatives.

'In a time of national austerity, projects like Dudgeon are of absolute importance for creating jobs and delivering economic growth.'

The inspector's findings contain a host of conditions, including that the cabling work must begin within five years of planning consent, that the impact of the work must be strictly monitored and that all pits and permanent above-ground equipment must be approved in writing by NNDC before development begins.

Warwick Energy claimed the windfarm project would produce enough electricity to supply up to 400,000 homes with power - approximately the number of houses in Norfolk.

Planning permission for the southern section of the cabling - 17km in total - was received from Breckland District Council in October 2010.

Breckland council refused the application for a substation site near Little Dunham - a decision that was quashed by the High Court in April.

The decision is now being reconsidered by the secretaries of state for energy and climate change and for communities and local government.

A Warwick Energy spokesman said as part of 'contingency planning', it was preparing to apply for an alternative substation site between Necton and Little fransham due to the 'continued uncertainty'.

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