Mid Devon District Council received a planning application for a windfarm on Bickham Moor, and commissioned Cooper Partnership to provide landscape and visual advice to assist in determining the application. The adjoining authority, North Devon Council, had also received an application for a nearby windfarm at Three Moors. Cooper Partnership was able to provide expert advice in considering the Bickham Moor application on its own and its cumulative impact alongside other proposals in the area.

As landscape and visual issues were at the core of the determination process, it was essential that full account was taken of the impact on landscape character, views from properties and routes and, crucially, the setting of and views from Exmoor National Park. Cooper Partnership worked closely with Mid Devon District Council and Exmoor National Park Authority, including reviewing the landscape and visual impact assessments for both windfarms, and liaised with North Devon Council and their consultants to ensure a coherent approach to the appeals.

Although not within a designated landscape, the countryside around the site has a complex and varied character, reflected in the Council’s local landscape character assessment, with a very distinctive sense of place. The southern periphery of Exmoor lies just over 5km from the site, with a series of footpaths, bridleways, parking areas and a scenic ridge top drive. Within 3km of the site are some 100 residential properties.

The fundamental issue was to balance the requirement for renewable energy against the need to take account of other environmental considerations, primarily landscape and visual amenity, and a consideration of the cumulative impact of such development.

To understand the impacts on landscape, the practice undertook a review of the Mid Devon Artas-ua.info Character Assessment, a detailed local landscape character assessment of the site and its environs, a visual impact assessment from residential properties, and cumulative landscape and visual impact assessments for a combination of the two windfarms with particular regard to the effects on Exmoor National Park. This assessment showed that the proposed windfarm would have an unacceptable impact on the setting of the National Park and on the local landscape character. The commission included expert witness evidence for the Council at the Inquiry, at the end of which the Inspector agreed with Cooper Partnership’s landscape and visual case.

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