Villagers have vowed to fight as hard as they can to block the construction of two wind turbines proposed for the Castle Cary area.
At a packed meeting in Hadspen village hall last Friday night an action group gathered worried residents together to mount a campaign to stop the turbines being built at Ansford Community School and on farmland between Hadspen and Pitcombe.
They are hoping their fight will be on scale with Save the Vale, one of the most successful and high-profile battles against the renewable technology which was witnessed at Cucklington four years ago.
“We see these proposals as an aggressive assault on the Hadspen and Ansford community,” group chairman Alan Whittaker told his audience. “The wind turbines are only 1.3 miles apart and constitute a mini wind farm. We need to combine resources and operate together as much as possible to oppose them.”
He said 50 people were already on board and the group was still growing. They were consulting experts and organisations, and looking for donations to fund the campaign.
“We hope to draw from the Cucklington model,” he added.
The action group claims the turbine proposed for the school would measure at least 44 metres to the hub and be 20 metres higher than the controversial Crown Pet Foods’ factory at Castle Cary. They say a 90-metre-high community turbine suggested by county councillor and farmer Henry Hobhouse would tower one and a half football pitch lengths above the Hadspen Valley, around 40 metres taller than King Alfred’s Tower.
The meeting was told that wind turbines were noisy, dangerous and posed a risk to health.
Pictures of rotor blades on fire and toppling turbines were on display together with horror stories about debris being strewn over a 10-mile radius and about noise destroying people’s lives.
Campbell Dunford, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Foundation, who was instrumental in the Save the Vale campaign, addressed the floor.
“We are not per se an anti-wind turbine organisation, we are a pro-renewables organisation,” he said, before expounding on the inefficiency and unreliability of wind power.
“We are in danger in this country of hyperventilating about greenhouse gases. It’s leading us into making some dangerous, destructive and stupid mistakes,” he said.
He told his audience that the UK’s power was running out and that the country needed a massive rebuild.
“I’d like to say wind is free and here forever, let’s use it, but it isn’t the answer and never will be.
“The role of wind can only ever be a small supporting one. Large-scale onshore wind farms in the UK are, in grid terms, largely irrelevant, at best a waste of time and money. Nowhere in England is it worthwhile having onshore wind turbines.”
He said the power generated by wind farms fluctuated too much for the grid.
“Turbines can’t power anything at all. They can give you energy but they can’t power anything. The unpredictable nature of wind means it is not suitable for purpose.”
In response to questions on safety, he said: “Early generation turbines have gears that grind and if you don’t look after them they burst into flames. New ones do not have gears, but they have been described as like a cement mixer up in the sky.
“The blades swish as they move through the air at speeds of 147mph. The compression of the air also makes a thump noise.”
Executive director of the Somerset Trust for Sustainable Development, Charles Couzens disputed Mr Dunford’s statements, saying they were misleading, and said wind turbines could produce some of the electricity needed in this country.
He said the Government’s independent watchdog on sustainable development, the Sustainable Development Commission, had a report that contradicted the REF’s conclusions.
“The expert advice about the impact of wind turbines is seriously flawed,” he said, appealing to the meeting.
“You have a duty to look at this in a balanced way. Don’t believe all the facts thrown at you ““ they are not necessarily as true as they sound.”
Brian Truman, a Cucklington resident who fought the two 100-metre turbines in his village, said wind turbines were noisy, affected health, house prices and tourism.
And engineer Byron Corfield said: “I think everyone should be aware of what a Goliath this thing is. They are gargantuan in scale. It will dwarf the entire landscape and kiss property valuation goodbye.”
But district councillor Peter Davis said he had been inside a wind turbine and found them to be harmless.
“There is no sound whatsoever. I think everyone is making a lot of fuss about nothing. There is property blight when people kick up a fuss, and once there is planning permission the whole thing fades away.”
Stuart Collins said he had read in the New Scientist that the REF was an anti-wind turbine organisation.
“I find it confusing and I won’t believe that everything said here is 100 per cent fact.”
Scientist Hamish Craig, founder and chairman of Carymoor Environmental Centre near Castle Cary that has three medium turbines and advises on sustainable energy, said:
“A group should be formed to examine the facts and look at how the local community can do something about climate change.”
Resident Derek Pheby said: “Until we know the impact on health, we shouldn’t invest in this. It would be irresponsible. It could be that people living in this community could have their health seriously affected by this.”
John Jones, who lives 160 metres from the school, said he was worried about the noise and questioned the financial efficacy, saying it would take decades for them to pay off.
Another resident expressed her concern at possible flooding caused by changes to the landscape when foundations were created to install the turbine.
Speaking after the meeting, Ansford Community School head teacher Robert Benzie stressed that the plans for his school were separate to the Hadspen development and had to be considered independently.
As for the facts discussed at the meeting, he said: “Nobody’s given us any scientifically reliable evidence that wind turbines are unduly noisy or dangerous. Obviously the planning authority that will make the decision will have to take children’s health and safety into consideration.
“As a school we want to address how we can become more sustainable in our use of energy, and set an example to young people who are looking to grow up in a time when fossil fuels are going to be more scarce.
“Our single turbine will only be built if it is economically viable and seen as the right thing to do.
“More people have written to me in support of the project than people who have come forward with objections. There has been a fantastic response from parents and students.
“Our intention has always been to work with the community and listening to all sides of the argument.”
He said the school was in a good location to have a turbine, being on a hill.
“We have had rapidly rising energy costs and we want to live out what we teach students about living sustainable lives.”
By Rosanna Holmes
15 March 2007
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