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MP backs protest group – but spells out the challenges ahead

Villagers battling to prevent a wind farm being built near their homes have received a boost after Boston’s MP pledged his support for their cause.

But Mark Simmonds left a meeting of the Sibsey Turbine Onshore Protest (STOP) group in no doubt as to the scale of the task ahead as members try to prevent the Needham Wind Farm project becoming a towering reality.

Speaking in the inviting confines of Mallow’s Cottage, the home of STOP chairman Tina McEwan, which may soon stand in the long shadow of a 400-foot turbine, Mr Simmonds told the 15-strong group he would be backing them all the way.

“I am very sympathetic to the plight of your community,” he said. “You will find me very supportive of what you’re trying to do.

“We would all support making a meaningful contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases through increasing renewable energy, but in a flat Fenland landscape, with the sorts of wind speeds you get round here?

“This is not the right place to put wind farms.”

However, Mr Simmonds had strong words of warning for anyone thinking the task would be straightforward.

“This is not an easy thing to stop, once it gets going,” he said. “What I can’t do is pick up the phone to the chairman of the (East Lindsey District Council) planning committee and say ‘you must stop this’. MPs are excluded from getting involved in individual planning decisions.”

Mr Simmonds outlined the difficulties councillors will face when a planning application is eventually submitted by developer Iberdrola.

“Firstly, central government can override local authorities’ decisions on renewable energy,” he said. “And if East Lindsey refuses permission and the developer successfully appeals, the council may have to pay the costs – and the councillors can be personally liable.”

He said STOP’s best bet was to garner as much public support as possible.

“I want to encourage you to keep going,” he said. “The more people you can get involved, signing petitions and getting people whipped up against the development, the more chance there is of stopping this.”

For more information on STOP, call 01205 750144.

By Jack Blanchard

Boston Standard

17 October 2007