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Council split over turbine; Baydon Meadow turbine rejected as heated full council debates environmental track record

The rejection of plans to build an 81 metre turbine high above Lambourn’s Baydon Meadow triggered a fiery argument over the West Berkshire Council’s environmental record on Tuesday night (December 11).

Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors accused each other of whipping their vote as just two councillors voted against party colleagues, rejecting the application 33 to 13.

The row centred on whether the need for renewable energy outweighed the threat to local businesses, described by local airfield businessmen Ralph Jones and Chanelle McCoy, wife of top jumps jockey Tony McCoy.

They claimed the turbine would threaten the safety of gliders flying from nearby Membury airfield and highly-strung young racehorses being trained in the Lambourn Valley.

Livelihoods would be ruined across the valley if industries were forced to move away, they said.

But Liberal Democrat councillors and green campaigners attacked the council’s environmental record, saying the site, although within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, was ideal for a turbine.

Energy campaigner Chris Marriage said the site was an “indifferent” piece of land sited next to a radio mast and a motorway.

Liberal Democrat leader Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) told members to vote on the “bigger issue” of climate change, which he said had already wreaked havoc in Thatcham during July’s floods.

“This is about the greater public good. It’s about the planetary good and we really have to make a stand. We’ve got to say, ‘We mean business’,” he said.
But council leader Graham Jones (Con, Lambourn) described the site, which lies in his ward, as “uniquely bad” to host West Berkshire’s first wind turbine.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “My big criticism of the applicant and the environmental lobby is that they launch a bombastic attack on the council, but so far their only proposal is to site a wind turbine at the end of a runway.

He added: “Why aren’t they being a lot more pro-active in coming forward with sites?”

Applicant Matt Partridge said an appeal was “very much on the cards”, and that a “more objective” planning inspector was more likely to approve the scheme.

By Liam Sloan, Online reporter

Newbury Today

12 December 2007