Councillors last night voted to reject plans for an 81-metre wind turbine to be built high above Baydon Meadow, but supporters forced the decision to return for a second hearing before the full council.
The controversial proposal, previously rejected four years ago, prompted a tetchy and impassioned debate over whether Lambourn’s local landscape and businesses should come in the way of supporting renewable energy.
Councillors divided on party lines after arguments in a packed council chamber lasted long into the evening, as the scheme was described as “a crime against nature” and “an icon for West Berkshire.”
Eight Conservative members agreed with officers’ recommendations to reject the turbine, which would tower over a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, while the three Liberal Democrat members backed the project.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Anthony Stansfeld (Con, Kintbury) said the scheme was energy inefficient, would blight the landscape and harm local horseracing and aircraft industries.
“Someone once said, ‘Freedom, what crimes committed in your name?’. Today’s question is ‘Greenery, what crimes against nature are going to be committed in your name?’ I believe this is a crime against nature,” he said.
But Cllr Tony Vickers (Lib Dem, Northcroft) said he would gladly see a row of turbines all along the M4 on the protected landscape.
“This turbine would be an icon to the thousands of motorists passing it on their way into West Berkshire. It will send a message that they are entering a part of the country that is signed up to tackling climate change,” he said.
His Liberal Democrat colleagues took advantage of the council’s constitution allowing a quarter of the committee to force the application to re-appear before the whole council.
Speaking after the meeting, applicant Matt Partridge, who had been joined by green campaigners to picket the council offices before the vote, said he was “more disappointed than surprised” by the committee’s refusal.
Lambourn district councillor Gordon Lundie, who voted against the proposal, said the issue had now become politicised.
He said: “I’m disappointed that that I feel the Liberals have turned this into a political issue when it could have been a democratic accountability issue decided at committee.”
He added: “I said to the applicant four years ago, ‘Come back with an appropriate site in my ward, and I will support it’. He’s come back with exactly the same proposal. Right idea, wrong place.”
He said despite his lobbying, West Berkshire Council had not yet got a clear policy on renewable energy.
Cllr Vickers said: “It’s more urgent that we get policy sorted than we almost certainly suffer another rejection at council level.
“Just as in wartime, it’s not about party politics – it’s a much more serious issue, so it’s a shame if it does go that way,” he said.
By Liam Sloan/Petra Cooke, Online reporters
22 November 2007
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