Councillors have given the green light to plans for the construction of a controversial wind turbine.
Lewes District Council’s planning committee voted in favour of the 70-metre turbine which will supply energy to Glyndebourne Opera House near Lewes.
Planning officers had recommended the application should be refused but at a packed meeting at Lewes Town Hall tonight the plan was approved by six votes to four.
But the plan has so divided the community that it must now be examined by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, before any work can start.
Ms Blears, who is expected to make a decision within the next few weeks, has the power to order a public inquiry into the development.
Speakers on both sides of the debate were rewarded with enthusiastic applause from the crowd of around 100 people.
Retired accountant Rita Hughes, 64, of Gote Lane, Ringmer, was among those who opposed the scheme.
Leaving the meeting she said: “I feel utterly deflated. I’d been quite hopeful before the meeting but as it went on it become more and more obvious which way the councillors were going to vote.
“I think they had a tricky decision to make, because we are all worried about climate change but many of us just aren’t convinced that the energy generated by this project justifies despoiling the landscape. It would do more good if Glyndebourne banned opera-goers from arriving in Range Rovers and helicopters.”
Drama teacher Margot Alliver, 30, of Southover Road, Lewes, was more buoyant.
She said: “Although I live in Lewes I often walk on the Downs, so I have as much too lose in terms of a view as anyone else, if you look at it that way.
“In fact I’m incredible pleased by this decision. To me, a wind turbine signals hope for a sustainable future and that’s a wonderful sight.
“This turbine represents our society taking climate change seriously and I could not be more delighted that the planning committee had the courage to vote yes.”
Representatives from Ringmer Parish Council, the South Downs Society and the Council For Protection of Rural England were among those who spoke against the development.
Supporters included Ringmer Community College which had registered its support after pupils held a debate and referendum on the issue.
John Kay, the vice-chairman of Ringmer council, said residents were strongly opposed to the turbine. He said they were not ignorant of the need to tackle climate change but felt the 52 metre-high structure would create an “alien intrusion” on the landscape.
Glyndebourne chief executive Gus Christie fought hard to deflect the criticism.
He said: “The only reason for refusing this is the visual impact and I would argue that is subjective. Many people find them graceful, elegant and beautiful.”
By Rachel Wareing
11 July 2007
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