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Lotus turbine poised for refusal

Controversial proposals to develop a wind farm at Norfolk sports car manufacturer Lotus’ test track have been recommended for refusal by district planners.

Green energy company Ecotricity is seeking consent for three 120m high turbines that will generate enough power to meet all Lotus needs at its Hethel premises, near Wymondham, with spare capacity to supply more than 1,000 homes through the national grid.

Producing renewable power on site would also enable Lotus to minimise its carbon dioxide emissions which contribute to global warming.

Objectors include the Ministry of Defence which claims the turbines would cause “unacceptable interference” to the air defence radar at RAF Trimmingham, and neighbouring residents who fear their lives will be blighted by the giant structures.

Among the concerns are the visual impact over large areas of unspoilt countryside, the industrial nature of the development, potential noise disturbance and shadow flicker, and the effect on farm animals and wildlife.

There have been 111 protest letters, with just six in support.

Ecotricity has submitted an environmental statement, addressing many of the issues. But, John Tomlinson, South Norfolk Council’s head of planning, believes the impact on the air defence radar cannot be mitigated although the scheme is acceptable in all other respects. A separate application for a temporary 50m wind-measuring mast is tipped for approval.

Alan Benstead, chairman of the campaign group fighting the development, said: “The news advising that SNC planning officers are to recommend refusal is welcome. However, in view of the Defence Estates’ objection it is difficult to reconcile the decision to recommend approval for the erection of an anemometer on this site”

Dale Vince, Ecotricity’s managing director, stressed that the Trimmingham radar system is due to be replaced early next year specifically to solve problems with interference from wind turbines.

“We are very pleased that the scheme has got the all clear in other respects and we are talking to the MOD right now to apply a Grampian condition.” This, he explained, would mean approval could be granted on condition that no development takes place until the radar station has been relocated.

Both applications are due to be determined at a special planning meeting on Tuesday at the council’s Long Statton headquarters.

By Celia Wigg

Eastern Daily Press

24 October 2007