Developers behind a controversial windfarm in South Cambridgeshire are to appeal against planning refusal.
Renewable Energy Systems claim the site at Wadlow Farm near West Wratting is the best location in the district for a windfarm and will continue to pursue the project.
South Cambridgeshire District Council yesterday (Wednesday, 06 June) rejected plans for 13 wind turbines, each 120 metres high, saying the damage the development would do to the local environment outweighed the benefits of renewable energy generated by the scheme – one councillor described the plan as “rape and pillage of the countryside”.
But Annette Deveson, project manager, said many of the councillors’ comments suggested they favoured the idea in principle, despite concerns about scale, and that research by the company over the past three years showed that wind speeds on the site were good.
She said: “RES is very disappointed by the decision. In our view the council has missed an opportunity to show leadership on climate change issues.
“Some councillors spoke very convincingly about the climate change argument and it’s a shame those points were not taken through.
“We are considering our options about what happens next, but it is more than likely we will be appealing. We have got strong grounds and the site is a good one for a windfarm proposal. The councillors had a considerable debate about the scheme and there was some acceptance from them that the site would be suitable for a windfarm. It seems the issue is about the number of turbines.”
While supporting the benefits of renewable energy, many members of the planning committee said they felt the proposal was unsuitable for Wadlow Farm.
Coun Sebastian Kindersley said: “This is the wrong technology in the wrong place. It’s also too big. I’m willing to be persuaded that small windfarms are appropriate in some places in South Cambridgeshire but this isn’t small and it isn’t the right place.”
Coun Vicky Ford, Balsham, helped to deliver a survey to 2,500 residents last year asking for their views on the scheme.
She said: “More than 500 people responded to the survey and 43 per cent said they did not object, while 53 per cent said they did. When the applicants say there is a silent majority in favour, that is not the view of the survey.
“When asked why they objected, the arguments that the visual impact was too big, that it was too large and there were too many turbines were repeated many times.
“There was also a lot of concern about the wind speed and I know a lot of parish councils mentioned this.
“Every parish council has gone through a very detailed process before coming to their own opinion. There have been public meetings in West Wratting, Wilbraham, and Balsham with RES, there have been ballots of residents in Brinkley and people have gone door- to-door in Carlton. All the parish councils came to the conclusion that this should be refused.
“This is the highest point in Cambridgeshire and putting wind turbines in that area will dominate the landscape more than it would in other locations.”
Paul Anderson, from Balsham Parish Council, one of those who objected, said reports on the efficiency of windfarms across the country showed that onshore facilities were far less efficient than offshore ones and that the North Hoyle windfarm, off the coast of Wales, was only 36 per cent efficient.
The West Wratting site is next to Fleam Dyke, a scheduled ancient monument and site of special scientific interest. There are six other sites of special scientific interest within five kilometres of the site.
Coun Deborah Roberts said putting a windfarm at Wadlow Farm would be “rape and pillage of the countryside”.
She added: “We have a duty to be custodians of the land and refusing this application would be a good example of that”.
But others said South Cambridgeshire had to help the fight against climate change, and granting permission would be the right thing to do.
Coun Stephen Harangozo said: “The scale of the problem we are trying to deal with regarding climate change is growing and we need to deal with that as soon as possible.
“If we approach the climate change angle as custodians of the land for future generations then we need to look at the tools and resources available for us to make an impact now. As I see it there is no possibility of us getting anything of this scale in this district to happen anywhere else. There are no other obvious quick solutions to get the capacity we need.”
Friends of the Earth attacked the decision, saying it ignored new national planning guidance prioritising climate change; strong backing for the project from the East of England Development Agency and the East of England’s 2010 target for generating 14 per cent of its electricity from renewables, including a large proportion from onshore wind.
Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, who lives in Cambridgeshire, said: “If the Conservative Party wants to prove it has changed we need more than green words from David Cameron – we need to see Conservative councils prioritising action on climate change at the local level.”
RES has identified seven sites which could host a windfarm.
These are land close to the River Ouse bounded by Earith Bluntisham, Needingworth, Over and Willingham; land further east along the Ouse, near to Aldreth; close to the A1198, between Wimpole Hall and the Hatley Park estate; land surrounded by Orwell, Shepreth, Meldreth, and Whaddon; close to Icknield Way national trail, about 3km west of Duxford airfield; further east on the Icknield Way, between the Abingtons and the Chesterfords; and land south-west of the Wadlow Farm site.
7 June 2007
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