DEVON County Councillors debated the economic and environmental issues of the proposed Atlantic Array before making no objections to the offshore wind farm plans at a special meeting this afternoon.
The council’s Development Management Committee decided on five recommendations to send to the Planning Inspectorate after debating concerns over the visual impact and the economic benefits to North Devon.
At the meeting held at County Hall in Exeter, councillors voted to amend the recommendations after weighing up the balance between landscape and economic issues.
The offshore wind farm, which could see up to 240 wind turbines erected less than 16km off the North Devon coast in the Bristol Channel, would be one of the biggest in the world if approved.
Each turbine could reach a maximum of 220 metres in height and it is estimated it would generate enough electricity to power approximately 900,000 homes.
At today’s meeting, the committee voted against describing the proposals as having “significant adverse” visual impacts on the North Devon landscape and instead opted to suggest it only had “some visual impact”.
It also added to the landscape recommendation that “despite the optimal location” for the wind farm, the visual “impact must be given full and appropriate weight in determining the application”.
Following a statement from Devon County Council economics officer Jamie Evans, the committee also voted to remove a concern that the proposals would supply “no economic benefit to the local economy of northern Devon”.
The other three recommendations, regarding highways matters, archaeological aspects, and conservation, raised no objections.
At the meeting, County Councillor Mike Edmunds, who is also a town and district councillor for Ilfracombe, said he thought North Devon would see “tremendous benefit” should the Array be approved.
He said: “I personally don’t have a great deal of worry about the landscape.
“It’s not the most efficient way of producing electricity, that’s why in the Ilfracombe area we’re looking at developing other trends such as wave and tidal, but unfortunately we’re that far behind with technology that we have to look for a stop gap and unfortunately I think that’s wind.
“I therefore support the Array and I think in 25 years we will see tremendous benefit.”
Councillor Rob Vint, from the South Hams district, said the Array was positioned in a location which had the “lowest possible visual impact” and said when considering environmental impacts it was a “fair trade-off”.
He said: “It’s actually quite stunning how low the visual impact is considering its powering 900,000 homes.”
County Councillor Andrew Eastman, who represents the Northam ward, also put forward concerns regarding the marine life off the North Devon coast, expressing concerns especially for protected harbour porpoises and dolphins, but was informed marine ecology issues were a matter for the Secretary of State.
The councillors voted seven to three in favour of amending the recommendations which will now be sent the Secretary of State for energy and climate change.