How long will it be before a big wind farm is built in Cambridgeshire – and where will it be?
In recent months the county has become a battleground between residents and developers keen to put up turbines in rural locations, and the war is heating up.
The latest skirmish will come to a head on Wednesday, June 6, when planning committee members at South Cambridgeshire District Council discuss proposals for a 13-turbine facility at Wadlow Farm, between Balsham and West Wratting.
Only a few months ago, another scheme, for 15 wind turbines close to the A14 between Boxworth and Conington, was rejected after a fierce campaign by local people.
The company behind the latest project, Renewable Energy Systems, fears the Wadlow Farm turbines will also be turned down.
In a bid to focus the planners’ minds on whether Cambridgeshire should have a wind farm, and where the best place would be for it, the firm has carried out a survey of the county – and has pinpointed SEVEN other potential sites for the giant turbines, which stand more than 100 metres high.
It has given the News details of where the seven sites are, stressing that none of them is better qualified than Wadlow Farm, but warning that if the farm site is snubbed, they may turn their attention to one of the others.
The move will no doubt prompt controversy among people living in villages close by – and ratchet up the debate.
Annette Deveson, Renewable Energy Systems’ project director for Wadlow Farm, said: “At least one wind farm needs to be built in South Cambridgeshire over the next few years – the area has to play its part in producing renewable energy. The Wadlow Farm site could generate enough electricity to power a third of the homes in the South Cambridgeshire area, more than 15,000 houses.
“We have looked at the scheme in great detail and we believe Wadlow Farm has the best benefits of them all.
“Obviously we hope that councillors will say yes to it, but our understanding is that they won’t, and that would be a pity.
“None of the other sites could be argued to be better than Wadlow Farm, but if it is turned down, it is possible we might have to look at them as potential alternatives.”
Only yesterday (Wednesday, 23 May) (Wednesday, 23 May), there was a row in the House of Commons when the Government outlined its Energy White Paper, aimed at mapping out how best to serve Britain’s energy needs in the year ahead.
Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling raised hackles by announcing that the Government would be mounting a five-month consultation on the “significant role” new nuclear power stations could play in cutting emissions.
He also told MPs he wanted the amount of electricity from renewable energy to triple to 15 per cent by 2015, with wind-generated power playing a significant role in that. Coupled with the new proposals announced earlier this week for revamping the planning system, opposition politicians and environmental groups fear this will make it easier to get wind turbine schemes up and running.
And there are signs of increasing polarisation in small communities. At King’s Lynn, for example, the family of a farmer found dead in a water-filled ditch have revealed that he was suffering from anxiety – brought on by opposition to him allowing some of his land to be used for a wind turbine project.
Renewable Energy Systems has appealed to councillors to say yes when they meet to talk about Wadlow Farm. Company spokesman Chris Shears said: “The mood music coming out of the council at present is not encouraging. It is ironic that at a time of real threat of climate change and our dependence on dwindling fossil fuels is headline news, a crucial part of the solution looks likely to be dismissed. We challenge members to look to the green agenda and support the scheme.”
But Jacqui Burke, secretary of residents’ group Stop Wadlow Wind Farm, urged them to do the opposite – and claimed the company’s threat to examine other sites amounted to holding a gun to the council’s head.
“The fact is that the company is part of a big corporation, and clearly would not be involved in this scheme if they did not expect big financial returns,” she said.
“We are against the proposal because the area involved is the only piece of chalk upland for hundreds of miles, and the turbines would sit on an escarpment on the top of it. The visual impact would be terrible, ruining the view not just for people nearby, but for people many miles away. You will be able to see them from King’s Lynn.”
She said the site was also right next to Fleam Dyke, classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and a scheduled ancient monument.
She added: “We are not against wind farms themselves – it is just a question of where they are located.
“Our view is that offshore is the best place for them although the development companies do not agree, because they are costlier to build and maintain in the sea.”
â– The seven other sites pinpointed by Renewable Energy Systems are:
1 – Land close to the River Ouse, bounded by Earith (1.5km), Bluntisham (1km), Needingworth (2km), Over (1.5km) and Willingham (2km)
2 – Land further east along the Ouse, close to Aldreth
3 – Close to the A1198, between Wimpole Hall (2km) and the Hatley Park estate (1km)
4 – Land surrounded by Orwell (1.5km), Shepreth (2km), Meldreth (2km), and Whaddon (1km)
5 – Close to Icknield Way national trail, about 3km west of Duxford airfield
6 – Also on the Icknield Way, but further east, in between the Abingtons and the Chesterfords
7 – Land close to the Wadlow Farm site, to the south-west of it
Cambridge Evening News
24 May 2007
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