The long-running wrangle over plans for wind turbines at Shipdham took another twist this week after green energy giant Ecotricity put up a 50m test mast without planning permission.
The company was accused by opponents of “pulling a fast one”, but it denied the allegation, saying the wind gauge was necessary to gather data.
Ecotricity got the go-ahead for two 100-metre permanent wind turbines on land at Shipdham, near Dereham, after a public inquiry.
No work has started to erect them yet but last week the test mast was suddenly put up.
Ecotricity said the monitoring pole was needed to reassure its financial backers that the turbines would generate as much power as had been estimated.
The company insisted there was no threat to the project and the testing was purely part of a standard “due diligence” process.
When the applications for turbines were submitted, Ecotricity relied on previous measurements of wind speeds in Norfolk, but the backers want ed more detailed information about wind levels at Shipdham.
The mast going up without planning permission has angered campaigners who oppose the building of the turbines.
Brian Kidd, chairman of CATSS (Campaign Against Turbines at Shipdham and Scarning), said: “They are jumping the gun and I think they are pulling a fast one. It is very naughty.”
He said the mast had appeared “out of the blue”.
Breckland Council principal planning officer Greg Britton confirmed the temporary mast would need permission and said that on Tuesday it received an application for permission to have the mast up for 18 months.
The anemometer calculates the average wind speed and direction and will allow the company to more accurately calculate the turbines’ output.
Current predictions are that they will produce about nine billion units of electricity a year – enough to power 2,700 homes.
Ecotricity managing director Vince Dale said: “Sustainable energy has never been more important and there is no time for these selfish backyard issues. There is a shortage of global wind-monitoring equipment and people to put them up. We got an unexpected window to put these up in Shipdham and thought we should take advantage of that.”
He said he had thought the company was covered by an earlier permission for an anemometer, granted by Breckland in 2001, but said he did not expect any objections to a retrospective application.
Mr Vince said that the company was on course to begin building the turbines next November.
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