Farmer's wind farm warning
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Rye area farmer and conservationist Phillip Merricks is involved in a High Court challenge to the government decision to allow a wind farm to be built near Camber.
Mr Merricks insists the controversial plans would damage protected bird populations if built at Little Cheyne Court, a few miles east of Rye.
Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, gave his seal of approval to the 26-turbine wind farm at Walland Marsh in October last year after a long enquiry at Lydd.
The turbines would each have blades as big as the wing-span of a Jumbo jet and be visible from parts of Rye.
Mr Merricks fears local birds, in particular Bewick Swans, could be caught and killed by the turbines’ flashing blades.
He farms at Icklesham but manages the Romney Marsh Nature Reserve, including the Cheyne Court Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Mr Merricks was awarded an MBE for his services to nature conservation in 1999.
His counsel, Mr David Forsdick, told London’s High Court the scheme, backed by Npower Renewables Ltd, had been hugely controversial from the outset and the case had general significance’ to wind farm proposals all over the country.
The proposals had raised ‘a number of hackles in the conservation world’ and the barrister said both English Nature and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) had expressed deep concerns over the development.
And, although those bodies may have received some comfort regarding how future wind farm proposals would be dealt with after high level negotiations with the DTI, he said any concessions made would assist Mr Merricks and local birdlife ‘not a jot’.
Mr Forsdick argued that, in granting permission, Mr Darling had applied standard planning criteria, rather than the ‘rigorous precautionary approach’ required by the European Union Habitats Directive.
The barrister said permission could only validly be granted for the wind farm if an ‘appropriate assessment’ showed the proposal would not ‘adversely effect the integrity’ of any Special Protection Area for wildlife.
And he argued the numbers of birds – in particular Bewick Swans – overflying the site had been seriously underestimated.
That, he told the court, was because there was an abnormally intensive level of crop protection bird scaring going on at the time of the survey and the numbers of birds overflying the site at night had been inadequately assessed.
He said the long-lived and slow-breeding Bewick Swan population already suffered fatalities due to power cables and even a small number of fatal strikes by the generator blades could badly affect the integrÃŒity of the Special Protection Area.
Mr Merricks is asking Her Honour Judge Hamilton to sanction a full judicial review of Mr Darling’s decision, but the application is being hotly opposed by the DTI, represented by Richard Drabble QC, and Npower, represented by William Norris QC. The hearing continues
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