A farmer killed himself after facing bitter opposition from villagers over plans for a multi-million pound wind farm on his land, his family said.
The body of Richard Herbert, a 47-year-old father of three, was found in a water-filled drain near his home at St John’s Fen End, near King’s Lynn, on Monday evening.
Mr Herbert, who had been receiving treatment for mental health problems, had been a member of a consortium of Fenland farmers around the village of Marshland St James whose plans to build a £40 million wind farm with 26 huge turbines had created fury among locals.
A fortnight ago, half of the 14 farmers abruptly dropped out of the scheme in the face of local opinion. They cited “personal reasons” but some said that they had received poison pen letters and, others, threats of violence.
Two days later, “rural terrorists” were blamed for slicing through steel guy ropes and toppling a 279-foot tall anemometer – a steel tower costing more than £100,000 and being used to evaluate wind strength across the flat farmland.
Last week, farmers still in the consortium, including Mr Herbert, said that they had been advised by police not to attend a meeting organised by villagers opposed to the scheme.
One, anonymous letter circulating in the village accused the farmers of dividing the community.
“Many of us have been here for generations, like yourselves, enjoying the peace and tranquillity of living in the Fens with its wonderful open views.
“We have all worked hard for what we have, large or small, living in harmony. All this could be totally ruined if this proposal goes ahead. Sleep well.”
Mr Herbert, who had a wife Juliet and three daughters – Victoria, 18, Isabelle, five, and Grace, four – was last seen at his farmhouse home in the early hours of Monday.
His body was recovered by police divers in Middle Level Drain.
In a statement, his family said: “Anxieties relating to the decline of farming, coupled with opposition to a wind turbine farm and personal matters, are believed to be behind his recent, out-of-character behaviour.
“Richard will be remembered within the community for his kind nature, good sense of humour, gentle disposition and love and dedication he showed to his family. “The family are devastated by the news and we will all miss him dearly. He was a good brother, caring husband, excellent father, loving friend and we all have many wonderful memories of his life.”
Henry Bellingham, Tory MP for North West Norfolk, said: “Mr Herbert’s death is an absolute tragedy. I fear it could be an indication of the amount of stress and pressure building up in a community that is absolutely furious about what is going on over these wind farm proposals.”
Lyndon Mason, an agricultural consultant who chairs the committee opposing the wind farm, said: “Naturally, we are shocked about the terrible news. Richard was a well-respected and valued family man who will be a greatly missed member of our small community. Our thoughts and prayers are, of course, with Richard’s family at this difficult time.”
Members of the committee have condemned any acts of intimidation or damage to property by those opposed to the turbine scheme.
A spokesman for the wind farm consortium declined to comment out of respect for the family.
A police spokesman said: “We are satisfied that there are no suspicious circumstances in relation to the man’s death and the matter has been handed to HM Coroner for further investigation. An inquest will open in due course.”
By David Sapsted
23 May 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding