Cumbria’s Everest hero, two high-profile broadcasters, a leading environmentalist and a major landowner have joined the fight to prevent a windfarm being built on fells near Shap.
Sir Chris Bonington, Lord Melvyn Bragg, Eric Robson, David Bellamy and the Earl of Lonsdale have all agreed to become patrons of the pressure group Community Opposed to Shap Turbines (COST).
Gamesa Energy UK wants to create the Shap Renewable Energy Park, comprising 10 wind turbines which would each be 100m high, on land close to the M6 motorway at a cost of about £20m.
The firm hopes to submit a planning application to Eden Council next month and have the project completed by 2010 ““ but COST says the scheme would ruin the landscape.
Now the group has managed to recruit some of the most high-profile public figures in the county to its campaign ““ and this week most of them released a statement outlining their objections.
Sir Chris Bonington, who lives near Caldbeck, said: “None of us are against finding sources of alternative energy or windfarms in the right place ““ it is a matter of weighing up priorities.
“In the case of the hills bordering our national parks in general and the hills above Shap, in particular, the visual damage to magnificent hill country does not justify the presence of a large and intrusive windfarm.”
Lord Bragg, who was brought up in Wigton, said: “I spoke out against the proposals for Whinash [a larger proposal which was turned down after a public inquiry] and I will speak out about the proposals for Shap.
“We are surrounded by news about climate change at the moment, but it should not be linked to the plans for a windfarm on the edge of a national park. Cumbria is blessed with an internationally important landscape that needs protecting.”
David Bellamy, who also joined the fight against Whinash, said: “I have made no secret of my opposition to windfarms.
“The capital cost of wind power per achieved megawatt hour is more than three times that of conventional generation. This fact makes wind uneconomic and no-one in their right mind would build windfarms unless the wind lobby back their aggressive marketing by proof that they will effectively eliminate global warming.
“Why should we be saddled with this enormous bill when our own Public Accounts Committee states that subsidising it is already four times more expensive than the other means of reducing carbon dioxide currently used in the United Kingdom?
“Why too, when Germany, with a far greater wind power percentage than the UK, has already warned of the grid control problems that could result from the wind’s unpredictable behaviour?
“The time has surely come to stop industrialising any more of our countryside with these monsters.”
Hugh Lowther, the Earl of Lonsdale, said: “I believe the proposals are for the wrong thing in the wrong place. It is too big, on land that is too prominent, and it is far too close to people’s homes.
“I will do what I can to protect the stunning landscape.”
COST chairman Jean Jackson said: “We are delighted to have the formal support of so many respected national and local figures. Just like members of COST, the patrons have varied reasons for opposing Gamesa Energy’s plans for a Renewable Energy Park.”
By Dave Gudgeon
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