The Government has given the green light for what will be the largest wind farm in Devon – at Fullabrook Down.
The go-ahead for the 22, three-megawatt turbines straddling a 10km ridge between Ilfracombe and Barnstaple, was announced yesterday by Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State for Energy, at the British Wind Energy Association conference in Glasgow.
The decision was met with both approval and dismay in North Devon yesterday (Tuesday)
It followed a four-week public inquiry into current plans, submitted by Devon Wind Power, which took place in December 2006 and January 2007.
“This Government is matching words with action,” said Mr Wicks.
“We said we needed to make tough choices if we are to achieve our clean energy objectives and that is exactly what we are doing.
“Fullabrook Down will make a substantial contribution to meeting Devon’s renewable target of generating 151 MW of renewable electricity by 2010 and would be nearly double North Devon District Council’s target of 36MW.”
The scheme will generate more power than all seven of Cornwall’s wind farms on one spot, according to Matthew Spencer, chief executive of South West renewable energy agency, Regen SW.
“The Fullabrook Down wind farm will strengthen Devon’s bid to be the greenest county in England, and will put it at the top of the league for renewable electricity in the seven counties of the South West,” he told the Gazette.
“It will more than double the amount of green power produced in the county and come to be seen as the feather in Devon’s cap once it is built.”
Keith Pyne, managing director of Devon Wind Power, said that the ground breaking approval – the 66MW scheme is the first large-scale wind farm to be approved in Devon – would enable the firm to help contribute more than 40 per cent of Devon’s 2010 target for renewable energy generation.
North Devon Green Party spokesman Cllr Ricky Knight said that the long-awaited decision came as a “hugely gratifying” endorsement of all the efforts the party had made to champion wind-power in North Devon.
“The outcome is a tremendous relief to all those who are determined to address the irresponsibly unsustainable way in which we source our energy from finite fossil fuels,” he said.
But at 110-meters high, twice the height of Nelson’s Column, the turbines have also come under fierce local criticism.
Devon County Council, which was initially in favour of the scheme and fought a succession of High Court battles with North Devon District Council in the mid 90s, withdrew its support in 2005, after developers increased the size of the turbines.
Plans were also met with disapproval by North Devon District Council, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, North Devon MP Nick Harvey, as well as a number of parish councils and local groups.
Mr Harvey told the Gazette he was “shocked” at the decision. “I did not think the case was a strong one,” he said.
“I think it will have a significant economic and environmental impact and will declare open season for other wind farms throughout the northern part of the county.
North Devon District Council said it was “deeply disappointed and concerned” at the decision and Martin Wickham of North Devon Marketing Bureau said it was bound to affect tourism.
District council leader Cllr Mike Harrison and Cllr Malcolm Prowse, Liberal Democrat leader, issued a joint statement.
It read: “Regrettably, it seems this decision typifies the way Government thinking is going, as evidenced in the new Planning White Paper, with its emphasis seemingly on moving decision-making closer to the centre, and further from the communities who will experience the consequences of those decisions.
“It also seems that North Devon and its people are picking up the pieces of Devon County Council’s flawed Structure Plan policies on renewable energy targets and ‘Areas of Search’ for wind farms.”
Devon County Councillor Andrea Davis said that the news was a “devastating blow for the area”.
“This is going to affect the entire character of North Devon as these turbines are going to be visible right across the area,” she said.
“I really feel that we should be seeking a judicial review against the decision.”
Richard Jerrard, from the local group Campaign Against Wind Turbines (CAWT) said the group was very disappointed and would wait and see what was going to happen next.
10 October 2007
Campaign Against Wind Turbines (CAWT): www.cawt.org.uk
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