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Craven's first wind farm planned

A German-owned company wants to build Craven’s first wind farm.

EnergieKontor has briefed Craven District Council about its plans for 11 wind turbines on Brightenber Hill, between West Marton and Coniston Cold.

If the proposals come about, the wind farm will provide enough energy to power half the homes in Craven and meet the council’s requirements to hit Government targets.

Craven is supposed to provide 17 megawatts of energy from renewable energy sources such as wind power by 2010, and 43 megawatts by 2020.

So far it is believed to have no negotiations in place and it is virtually certain to miss that target.

The 11 turbines would each be 126 metres – almost 400 feet – high from base to top of the blade and have a maximum output rating of two megawatts each, although the firm believes technology advancements will take that to 2.5 megawatts by the time they are constructed.

The company, whose UK base is in Knaresborough, hopes to persuade Craven people that it needs to do its bit towards finding renewable sources of energy.

Its project manager, David Starkins, said Brightenber Hill had been identified as the best available site.

“From Kyoto to Craven, it is important for all of us to fully understand the climate change issues,” said Mr Starkins. “Each of us must endeavour to maximise our contribution to limit global warming.

“The decisions we make on where we source our energy and how we use that energy and its resultant impact on the environment will be acutely felt by our children.”

Negotiations have taken place with local landowners, who will be handed an extra source of revenue.

The EnergieKontor group has built more than 60 wind farms in Europe with more in the pipeline.

Under the Kyoto Agreement, the Government has plans to reduce C02 emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. That includes a target of 10 per cent of electricity supply coming from renewable energy sources by 2010. Craven’s “share” of that, set out in the Yorkshire and Humber draft Regional Spatial Strategy, is the 17 megawatt target, which EnergieKontor says it will meet with its Brightenber Hill project.

Mr Starkins and the company’s planning consultant, Mick McLoughlin, met Craven district councillors for a special briefing at Broughton Hall this week – the first step towards obtaining planning consent for the wind farm.

They said the Brightenber site had strong winds which would produce significant amounts of green energy, was away from any areas designated as nationally important for wildlife or landscape protection, provided good access and was close enough to the local electricity network.

Its next step is to carry out a detailed assessment of the potential impacts on residents and the local environment.

A public consultation process will follow and more details are available on the company website energiekontor.co.uk The company has already held a meeting with Skipton MP David Curry.

He told the Herald that Craven had to look at sources of renewable energy and could not take the attitude “not in my back yard”.

“This issue is not going to go away,” Mr Curry explained. “We have got to save the planet in one shape or form. There is a national need for renewable energy and we have all got to do our bit to make sure our kids inherit a planet with a future.”

But he added that any public consultation process must be meticulous, detailed, honest and genuine.

“I think the company must make it absolutely clear what it intends to do. If this wind farm does go ahead, it must go ahead with the support of local people. All queries must be responded to.

“The main point is not that these turbines can power half the houses in Craven, but that they replace resources that push carbon into the atmosphere,” added Mr Curry.

However, the idea failed to win favour with Coun Stephen Butcher, who represents Bank Newton and Coniston Cold on Craven District Council.

He said he had not seen the proposals, but he generally felt wind turbines were an inefficient way of generating electricity.

“Personally, I do not think wind farms should be placed on good agricultural land. Such farms would be better positioned in the Bristol Channel,” he added.

Coun Robert Mason, who represents West Craven, was unable to attend this week’s briefing meeting, but said: “At the moment I have a neutral view. I will listen to the arguments and make my mind up when it comes to the planning committee.”

And he added: “No-one wants wind farms, but we need them and someone has got to have them.”

Fellow councillor Helen Firth, who represents Hellifield and Long Preston, broadly welcomed the proposals.

She said: “I think wind farms should be allowed, but it depends on how big they are and how much energy they produce.

“The turbines at Chelker seem to be switched off half the time – and what’s the point of sticking them in the middle of nowhere and not using them all the time.

“I am in favour providing the wind farm is sited sympathetically – and they can be – and it is used.”

A fourth district councillor for the affected area, David Crawford, could not be contacted for a comment.

Sian Watson, head of planning at Craven District Council, said: “We are pleased that the company has approached us at this early stage. They have given a firm commitment to engage with Craven residents in developing any planning application for a wind farm in Craven.”

By Ian Lockwood

Craven Herald & Pioneer

7 September 2007