Hundreds of villagers were last night furious after a renewable power company backed out of attending a public meeting just hours before it was due to start because of safety concerns.
Representatives from Lowestoft-based SLP Energy had been due to attend the meeting at Pulham St Mary Village Hall to allay residents’ fears over its proposals to build seven 125 metre high wind turbines on the former Pulham airfield site.
But about 24 hours before the meeting was due to take place the company announced it would not be present because it was feared the amount of people potentially attending “could compromise safety and public order”.
Lucy Melrose, spokesman for an action group which has been formed to fight the plans, said: “This is a major disappointment for the local residents who have many questions to ask the developer and a snub to the two parish councils who had arranged the meeting.
“We deeply regret this astonishing decision. SLP declined an invitation to attend the Dickleburgh meeting and have now refused to meet residents of the Pulhams, carefully making their decision when it’s too late to arrange another venue. I suppose it is gratifying that they are concerned about health and safety. Lets hope that, on the same grounds, they withdraw their plans for this irresponsible development.”
More than 200 villagers attended the meeting and many jeered after a statement from SLP about why it would not be attending was read out.
Among the villagers was former cabinet minister and South Norfolk MP Lord MacGregor. He said: “The fact that SLP have pulled out so soon before the meeting is outrageous. It’s a very bad start for them if they cannot even be bothered to talk to the local people about this.”
In the statement SLP said: “We have been advised that the number of potential attendees will far exceed the maximum capacity at Pulham St Mary Village Hall. This could compromise safety and public order and therefore we feel that this meeting will not be as beneficial as originally thought.
“SLP Energy values the opportunity to meet with residents from the local community and consider the above a postponement of their public attendance.
“We will now work with the parish council over the coming weeks to find a suitable venue for a public exhibition for interested parties to attend.”
The company said a project newsletter would be issued to local residents by SLP Energy over the next few weeks, which would explain the planning processes in greater detail and provide further information.
“SLP conducts its business with high regard to social responsibilities and wishes to assure that the proper consultation will take place with the local community prior to a planning application being submitted.”
SLP have submitted an application for a wind measuring mast to establish whether the site at Seamere Green is suitable for the turbines which is likely to go before South Norfolk Council’s south west area planning committee in September. A scoping opinion for the construction of the turbines is currently being carried out.
Objectors say the rural community is totally unsuitable for a wind farm and that the four villages within a two kilometre radius will become a “blight zone”.
By Emily Dennis
3 August 2007
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