An alternative energy company was accused yesterday of “bullying” local people and showing “contempt and disregard for the planning system” as a five-year wrangle over new wind turbines took another twist.
Bosses of Ecotricity are being summoned to appear before Breckland Council development control committee to explain why the company put up a 50m-high test mast at Shipdham, near Dereham, without consent and why it is needed.
The company installed the pole to obtain wind data to reassure the backers financing two 100m-high turbines on the site. The turbines were twice refused planning permission by Breckland but were approved after a second public inquiry.
A High Court challenge is being pursued by objectors Dr Lee Hoare and her husband Nicholas, who live next to the proposed site.
Dr Hoare said the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Ruth Kelly, had agreed that the permission should be quashed as a condition to prevent noise nuisance was unenforceable. But she said the High Court had still to make its decision.
Yesterday, Breckland councillors and objectors launched a furious attack on Ecotricity, and committee members deferred a decision on the retrospective application for the test mast. Ecotricity bosses will be asked to a future meeting to “explain themselves”.
Local councillor Theresa Hewett said people’s lives had been put on hold for five years because of the wrangle. She claimed Ecotricity had treated Breckland and residents “with little more than contempt”.
Brian Kidd, chairman of pressure group Campaign Against Turbines at Shipdham and Scarning (CATSS), said the company had insisted for five years that a test mast was not needed and had then put one up “out of the blue”. He added: “In reality, this is a precursor for an application for more turbines on the site.”
He accused Ecotricity of riding roughshod over the planning process.
Council member Paul Hewett said the wind company had intimidated residents and Breckland Council and had shown flagrant disregard for the system. He added: “We should stand up to bullies and reject the application and listen to the people.”
Fellow councillor John Labouchere said: “This application stinks and has stunk for five years.”
But Michael Fanthorpe said: “The day will come when we will generate electricity in other ways than polluting the environment. Wind turbines are a thing of beauty. Swaffham loves their turbines. They are the right way forward for the country and the right way forward for Shipdham.”
Principal planning officer Greg Britton said Ecotricity had grabbed an opportunity to put up the mast and had applied for permission on the same day.
In Friday’s EDP we wrongly stated that Dr Hoare had claimed the High Court had already quashed the planning permission on the two turbines. We apologise to her for embarrassment caused.
By Ian Clarke
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