The public inquiry into the planned wind farm at Hemswell Cliff began at the Lincolnshire Showground today, Tuesday.
More than 100 supporters and opponents packed the EPIC centre for the inquiry, which is expected to last well into next week.
Before the inquiry began a small group of Green Party activists staged a protest outside in favour of the proposal.
The inquiry follows an appeal by RWE Innogy against West Lindsey District Council turning down the proposal for 10 turbines 126.5m high and associated buildings at Hemswell Cliff.
Planning Inspector Paul Jackson told the inquiry RWE Innogy has submitted alternative proposals for eight turbines, which is an option that can also be considered by the Secretary of State Eric Pickles, who ‘called in’ the proposal.
Mr Jackson told those present he had received a “considerable quantity” of letters both for and against and people had “strongly held feelings” on it.
He also announced plans for an evening event next Tuesday at Hemswell Cliff to give the public extra time to have their say.
“I understand the local people are concerned about many things,” continued Mr Jackson.
“The main things of interest to the Secretary of State are as follows - the settings of heritage assets, heritage assets of significant value, landscape and visual impact and whether the economic benefits of the project are outweighed by any harm that may be caused.”
“It’s all to play for,” he said.
Among those present were West Lindsey District Council Leader Jeff Summers, local district councillors Paul Howitt-Cowan, Lewis Strange and Geoff Wiseman, plus Ernest Coleman of residents opposition group VOCAT.
The inquiry began with an overview from RWE Innogy, VOCAT and West Lindsey District Council,
Barrister David Hardy of law firm Eversheds, for RWE Innogy, said their plan was “based on policy in place” from central and local government. The site was not protected and this was a “low impact project” that would bring a “much needed wind farm” which would make a “significant contribution towards national energy policies.”
The project would have a “light footprint” with little impact on landscape and would not be overbearing on nearby houses.
VOCAT lawyer Thea Osmund-Smith, said the proposal would affect “one of the most distinctive landscapes in Lincolnshire”. There were also a “number of effects which made the proposal unacceptable.” There would be impacts on heritage assets including Norton Place, and sites of high archaeological significance. Local residents opposed the project, which would also harm tourism.
Richard Kimblin, for WLDC, said the proposal would harm landscape and cultural assets and bring an “alien level of industrialisation” to a rural area. Thus, it was unsustainable.
More detailed evidence was to follow, based on subject areas, such as visual impact and heritage assets.