Fifteen wind turbines on the outskirts of March – as well as an extra turbine to generate power to Tesco’s new superstore at Hostmoor- are identified in reports published today (Wed).
Documents obtained by the Cambs Times shows the new wind farm proposed for land off the A141- equipped with blades with a tip height of 120 metres- has been heavily researched for at least a year.
The news came as a group of high powered Chinese business and Government officials arrived in Fenland today to visit wind turbines in advance of signing a historic £200 million agreement to build 100 wind turbines in a Chinese province. The agreement is being signed at a special ceremony at The Oliver Cromwell Hotel where the British company, Wind Prospect, will then host a dinner for their Chinese guests.
The company proposing to build Fenland’s latest wind farm is one of the world’s biggest energy companies, the Spanish utilities giant Iberdrola Renewable Energies who also own Scottish Power.
Their consultants concede the impact of the Fenland application will result in the loss of “characteristic landscape features such as hedgerows, mature trees and ditches” but nonetheless expect their report to lead to a detailed planning application soon.
That is despite receiving a cautious response from officials at Fenland District Council who question whether the landscape “has accommodated sufficient wind turbines.”
Any application can also expect to receive a hostile reception from councillors, including Council Leader Geoff Harper and his deputy Councillor Fred Yeulett, who believe Fenland has done more than its bit towards renewable energy.
With 35 turbines agreed – many of them up and running- councillors will be told tomorrow (Thu) that the turbines already approved are more than capable of providing “enough energy to meet the equivalent of the entire domestic electricity requirements of Fenland.”
Andy Brand, senior planning officer, told the consultants wanting to build the new Wittome Wind Farm, that the council is “minded to undertake an independent assessment of the capability of the landscape to accommodate further turbines.”
Despite the council’s cautious reaction, however, Hyder Consulting (UK)Ltd who have prepared the wind farm report, look set to proceed to a full application. The proposed development will be on land near Turves, to the west of the A141 and south of the A605. Access could be from the east along the A141 and the A605. The site is described as being 0.5 km to the north of Whittlesey Road, 4 km to the east of March, crossing with the A141 adjacent to Cherryholt Farm, and about 0.5 km to the east of Knights End Road. Doddington is 5km to the south-east and Benwick 3km to the south.
Although Hyder Consulting’s report is the opening shot in their campaign to win approval, Fenland Council is already insisting on more detailed assessments on the environment to be drawn up if an application is to go ahead.
“Of particular importance would be the cumulative impact of the development,” says Mr Brand.
“I do have significant concerns about the impact of such a large scale of development within this location.”
Hyder Consulting now plan to move the project along, and have identified 14 sites -mostly farms in the area- from which they will select five or six to collect data on likely noise from the turbines.
“The development of a wind farm in the area has the potential to have significant positive and negative impacts on a wide range of human activities,” say the consultants.
“As such, a detailed assessment of the potential effects on the human environment is considered important.”
Although some rights of way be affected, these are not likely to the main objectors: preliminary consultations already indicate opposition from the Defence Ministry and the BBC.
The BBC says 98 homes may be affected although Hyder Consulting dismiss this a representing a “slightly exaggerated, worst case scenario.”
However it’s Defence Ministry opposition that may be most difficult to overcome, with the turbines likely to be line of sight to the air traffic control radar at Cottesmore, 50 km away.
“They have stated this will cause unacceptable interference to operations at Cottesmore,” says the consultant. RAF Marham, RAF Lakenheath and even RAF Cranwell- 64 km away- also fear the turbines. And there is also concern from Cambridge Airport that the turbines will cause “unacceptable interference.”
Marlene Chitonga, who wrote the report for Hyder, is confident that any objections can be overcome.
“Identification of potentially significant adverse effects will enable appropriate mitigation measures to be built into the design at an early stage,” she says.
“Where appropriate, mitigation measures will aim to either reduce or eliminate undesirable impacts and to introduce or enhance beneficial effects.”
SOME EARLY REACTION TO THE PROPOSED WIND FARM
1: Cambridgeshire Bat Group says “there is mounting evidence that wind turbines kill bas, and can have negative impacts on bat populations.”
2: Cambridgeshire County Council notes there are sites of special scientific interest within five kilometres of the site, a public right of way runs through the site, as does two public footpaths, but overall the authority generally supports renewable energy schemes.
3: Cambridgeshire Local Bird Club notes its proximity to the RSPB Nene Washes and concludes “the wind farm must not be allowed to happen.”
4: English Heritage is concerned about “the cumulative impact of this and other wind farm sites on the landscape in the region.”
5: The Environment Agency suggests the site “is liable to flooding in extreme circumstances”
6: Fenland District Council is concerned about the capacity of the landscape to accommodate this scale of development given the existing permitted proposed developments in the vicinity. “Very careful siting will be required in order to ensure that the issue is addressed.”
7:Huntingdonshire District Council urges the applicant to read their own studies on the environmental consequences and potential “cumulative impacts of the proposed development.”
8: Natural England notes that March “holds a significant roost of Noctule bats” and there may be implications for them. And they want the site laid out “away from sensitive areas for protected species.”
9: Peterborough City Council is concerned about the visual/landscape impact.
10: RSPB says it supports renewable energy but is worried about disturbing birds, their loss of habitat and possible collisions.
SOME of the £100 million set aside last year by Tesco to fund ‘green power’ could be on its way to the Fens.
The company believes a wind turbine at Hostmoor and next to the new store being re-developed on the site will drive the company bid to “reducing their carbon footprint.”
The company has lodged an initial bid to Fenland planners to build a single wind turbine with a capacity of 850 kw, and a maximum tip height of 86-91 metres, with a rotar diameter of 52 metres.
Tesco believes the turbine will have “significant” effects locally but for now they hope for feedback from Fenland Council on what detail might be needed once a full application is submitted.
By John Elworthy
20 June 2007
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