Countryside campaigns have vowed to fight proposals to build a wind turbine on the Sussex Downs.
Lewes District Council’s planning committee last week voted in favour of a 70 metre turbine to supply energy to Glyndebourne Opera House.
Planning officers had recommended the application be refused but at a packed meeting at Lewes Town Hall it was approved by six votes to four.
But national organisations including the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the Council for National Parks and the Ramblers Association are all staunchly opposed to the plan – and are now calling for a public enquiry into the council’s decision.
The proposal has so divided locals that it must be examined by communities secretary Hazel Blears before any work can start.
Ruth Chambers, head of policy at the Council for National Parks, said: “We are calling for a public inquiry into this proposed development.
“It is madness to build such a huge structure on such a sensitive and prominent part of the South Downs.”
Roy Haycock, the chairman of CPRE Sussex said: “We are deeply disturbed to hear that the council wishes to grant permission against its own planning officer’s recommendations. This turbine has huge opposition both nationally and locally.”
Directors at Glyndebourne hope to erect the 850kw turbine at Mill Plain, 400m from the opera house, to power the site via an underground cable.
Engineers believe it would generate enough electricity to meet all the prestigious venue’s energy requirements for a year.
Extra electricity would then be used to feed nearby homes through the National Grid.
But council officers had recommended the plans refused on grounds the structure could harm the natural beauty, character and tranquility of the nearby landscape.
Despite more than 70 letters supporting the green initiative, councillors said they had received a further 230 from local households against the scheme.
Some said the turbine would be an “educational resource” and an “elegant and graceful addition to the landscape”.
Others described it as “alien”, threatening to overshadow Ringmer, damaging the views from nearby footpaths and even affecting TV receptions.
Jacquetta Fewster, the director of the South Downs Society, said: “All the countryside protection organisations are in favour of appropriate renewable energy but argue that great thought must be given to the type and size of renewable energy developed, particularly in special landscapes such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks.”
Gus Christie, the executive chairman of Glyndebourne Productions, argued the South Downs AONB management plan stresses that “landscapes are dynamic, living and constantly changing”.
He added: “Green initiatives of this kind should be encouraged in the battle to protect the environment from climate change.
“We are delighted that Glyndebourne’s application to build a wind turbine, to supply the opera house with renewable energy and greatly reduce our carbon footprint, has been given the go-ahead by Lewes District Council.
“Climate change is one of the most important challenges facing our generation and it is imperative that we act now.”
Ms Blears has the power to order a public enquiry and is expected to reach her decision within the next few weeks.
By Andy Dickenson
17 July 2007