November 14, 2007

Energy giant eyes former airfield for windfarm

Fresh from failing to persuade the Highways Agency not to route the A14 close to the south of the Offords, villagers now face the prospect of being overlooked by eight 400-feet tall wind turbines.

Npower Renewables, the “green” arm of the generating giant, has started an informal consultation with people in Graveley, the Offords and Great Paxton to gauge local reaction to a possible windfarm on the disused World War II airfield at Graveley, now part of Cotton Farm, just inside the Huntingdonshire border with South Cambridgeshire.

“Npower renewables believes the site could be suitable for a medium-sized wind farm of a maximum of eight turbines,” said a company spokesman.

“A wind farm of this size could produce enough green electricity to meet the average annual needs of between 6,900 and 10,000 homes each year. This takes into account fluctuations in wind speeds, including any calm periods when the turbines may not be generating.

“The development would also offset the release of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is one of the main greenhouse gases that contributes to climate change.”

Each turbine would be up to 127 metres (417 feet) tall, he added.

Renewables developer Kim Gauld-Clark added: “Wind power has significant potential to reduce UK carbon dioxide emissions and help in the fight against climate change.

“Onshore wind is the most viable renewable resource available if we are to meet national government targets of 10 per cent of our electricity coming from renewable sources by 2010.

“Work on the Cotton Farm project is at an early stage, although the site shows many preliminary signs that it may be suitable to help reach that obligation. However, we will need to carry out further detailed studies before considering a planning application.”

If the company goes ahead with an application, it would probably happen in the middle of next year.

Huntingdonshire District Council’s head of planning Steve Ingram said there had been a 50-metre test mast at the site for about two years. Any application would need to be accompanied by a full environmental impact assessment.

“One of the big issues would be the Ouse Valley, which we are promoting as a quiet recreation area,” he told The Hunts Post.

The council would want to satisfy itself that any photomontages supplied by npower to accompany a planning application represented realistically how the turbines would affect the landscape.

At the public inquiry last year into the proposed wind farm between Boxworth and Elsworth five miles away South Cambridgeshire District Council accused the developers of providing photomontages that were seriously misleading. The inspector turned the application down.

HDC’s March 2005 report Wind Turbine Development in Huntingdonshire says the landscape of the area has a high capacity to accommodate a small scale group of turbines.

“Although more obvious and dominant in the landscape, the generally open character of the south-east Claylands means that a small scale group of turbines would not dominate views and could respond well to the landscape structure and pattern.

“Providing it was appropriately sited, such a development would not have an adverse impact on key landscape values.”

Developers are advised to avoid those areas where there is already a large number of vertical elements such as pylons and communication structures) to ensure that the development does not result in visual confusion and clutter.

Any proposal should relate to existing building clusters in the landscape, for example the occasional large farm buildings.

Turbines should be sited in a simple linear arrangement with consistent and repetitive spacing between individual turbines, located along contour lines as opposed to across them.

They should also respect the sites and settings of key valued landscape features, notably remnant historic features, and the scale and setting of the small, intact villages and views to church towers and spires.

Councillor Barbara Boddington, who represents the area on the district council and Cambridgeshire County Council, told The Hunts Post: “I have never been in favour of wind farms. I question whether they do the job efficiently for the cost of them.

“But I shall have to see what the people of Great Paxton and the Offords have to say.”

South Cambridgeshire member Councillor Mark Howell who, with Cllr Nick Wright, represents Graveley, added: “We shall be directed by the people of Graveley to decide the most suitable way forward. If they are all for it, that’s fine. But the difficulty we have is that it’s a Huntingdonshire application.

Hunts Post

14 November 2007

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