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Wind farm latest

One of the experts behind plans to build a huge wind farm near Brent Knoll has admitted she did not bother to talk to residents when deciding how the development would affect its ‘treasured’ surroundings.

A public inquiry into energy firm Next Generation’s controversial bid to get planning permission to create five 78m high turbines, each with three 41m blades, near the Somerset village was expected to finish today (Thurs).

Next Generation’s plans have been put under the microscope at the inquiry, at The Princess theatre in Burnham, with the massive visual and environmental impact it will have on the landscape coming under close scrutiny.

Rose Lennard, an expert brought in by Next Generation to assess the potential development’s effect on the landscape and the environment, admitted at the inquiry that she did not consult with residents when carrying out her work, which was pivotal in putting together the company’s plans.

People living in Brent Knoll have constantly campaigned against the proposals since they were unveiled in April last year, forming the kNOll to Wind Farm group and flooding Sedgemoor District Council with petitions and letters of objections, claiming the proposals would shatter the tranquillity of the village.

The council threw the plans out in August last year but Next Generation appealed against the decision – which led to the public inquiry.

Mrs Lennard said at the inquiry that they she knew people living in the area ‘treasured’ the local landscape but believed the wind farm development would enhance the area rather than destroy it.

She said when she was completing her assessments that she visited the Brent Knoll village website but did not contact anyone living in the area.

She said: “I do not think the turbines will dominate Brent Knoll, they are discreet small structures, they might slightly dominate Brent Knoll, but in my view I do not think they will affect the overall character of the landscape.”

Mrs Lennard also said Next Generation, a subsidiary of Ecotricity, planned to cover up the feet of the turbines, which would be built on land near Stoddens Lane in Edithmead, so they would not look as large. She said because they would be built on the Somerset Levels, which is an extremely flat area, they would not interfere with the landscape as much. She said they would interfere with views more if there were lots of hills in the area because there would be more vantage points.

Sedgemoor District Council’s barrister Gavin Collitt challenged Mrs Lennard on her methods but she claimed her work was within the industry’s standards.

Next Generation says the turbines would produce masses of clean, renewable energy, powering around 10,000 homes.

Government inspector Robin Brookes is expected to sum up the inquiry today and will decide whether or not to uphold the council’s decision to turn the plans down in the coming weeks.

Weston & Somerset Mercury

23 August 2007