Windfarming with sky-high hillside turbines will be blowing into Milton Keynes following a night of high drama in the council chamber.
The seven 406ft turbines planned at Petsoe End, Emberton, were given the go-ahead by the city planning committee.
But it was anything but a breeze for supporters of the Your Energy project – with councillors split six-five on the crucial vote.
Committee chairman Brian Morsley had to call a 10-minute recess during a two-hour debate after a council lawyer queried whether the authority could face a legal challenge on the grounds that a member might be held to have a prejudicial personal interest in the issue.
Olney councillor Stephen Clark had said he lived close to the turbine site, but subsequently explained that he would be no worse affected by the scheme than others living in the area.
The committee also had to resolve questions over accuracy and adequacy of information to avoid deferring a decision to a further meeting.
It rejected by a single vote a proposal by Tory councillor John Bint to turn down the wind farm because the committee was being asked to sacrifice a designated Area of Attractive Landscape for a “fourth division” power scheme.
Cllr Clark said: “We are being advised that wind technology is improving but turbines are getting taller and taller.”
Cllr Isabella Fraser said: “The council is caught between a rock and a hard place. We are in a no-win situation.”
She complained of “email harassment” by supporters of the scheme and attacked those in the public gallery for “extremely immature” behaviour in waving placards.
Liberal Democrat Chris Williams, who moved the recommendation approving the scheme, said he was concerned about the height of the turbines, but convinced the application met appropriate planning requirements.
Your Energy said shorter turbines might mean more were needed.
Lib Dem members were split on the vote, with Tories opposed and Labour backing the project.
Labour’s Mick Legg said other than turbine height he did not see “any real change to the environment”.
Lib Dem Jaime Tamignini-Barbosa feared that unless there was a bigger switch to renewable energy sources there might be no landscape left to protect.
“We must accept that sometimes we must make sacrifices,” he said.
Olney councillor Debbie Brock, who is not a member of the committee, said the planning application had had the biggest impact on the area of any in living memory, with the community overwhelmingly against it.
“It is the wrong proposal in the wrong place. The reasons for not wanting it are not Nimbyist.”
A spokesman for Blew, the lobby group which claimed wind levels locally invalidated the scheme, said the wind farm would end up as a white elephant.
Your Energy thanked the committee for giving Milton Keynes “an early Christmas present which will provide the city with safe, clean, renewable energy for the next generation”.
By Doug Smith
19 December 2007
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