A storm has been brewing in the otherwise quiet village of Benington.
Villagers have been very vocal in protesting against proposed plans to site three 120-metre wind turbines in the village which they claim will be a blot on the landscape.
Far from remaining in obscurity, this village has been hitting the headlines thanks to some high profile campaigning and support from a wide spectrum.
The Stop Benington Wind Farm (SBWF) group staged a four-mile protest walk, which gained publicity in local newspapers, on television and saw best-selling local author Frederick Forsyth wade into the debate.
The wind farm project, which was due to be submitted for planning permission to East Herts District Council in November by local landowners RH Bott and Sons, is expected to supply enough power for around 3,000 homes if it is given the go ahead.
But villagers are concerned that the wind farm will intrude on the Hertfordshire landscape, create noise pollution and shadow flickers, prevent people using some bridleways and affect wildlife and natural habitats.
Campaigner and villager Rowan O’Duffy says the protest started in the summer when people became aware of what was happening. ‘Lots of people in the area have had to learn very quickly about wind turbines and all the issues surrounding them,’ he says.
‘Areas of outstanding natural beauty like this are precious and need to be looked after. We must save the historical landscape of Cotton Lane and High Elms Lane. The significant change to the character and appearance of the landscape caused by wind turbines hugely outweighs the benefits in terms of
renewable energy generation.’
‘We are very keen to point out that we are not against the environment and we are not against wind turbines in general. We simply don’t think this village is the right place for them.’
More than 200 protesters joined the walk through Benington and up to the proposed site for the wind turbines at High Elms Lane in the Beane Valley. Families from Benington and surrounding villages – including Aston, Watton at Stone and Datchworth – turned out with hand made banners, dogs and horses, to walk to the site.
Joining the walk was Day of the Jackal author Frederick Forsyth, who lives in East End Green, and who was keen to make his feelings known. ‘If a national competition were held to find the most utterly unsuitable place for three gigantic eyesore windmills, over 400 hundred feet high, the prize would have to go to the historic village of Benington in the ancient and dreamy Beane valley’, says the author. ‘For one thing, this means despoliating forever a truly magical part of medieval England; for another, the wind hardly ever blows here beyond a gentle breeze. The project is madness on stilts – literally!’
Children and teenagers have played their part, including 16-year-old Becky Godlee who performed her specially written song Beauty Corruption in front of the crowd before everyone headed off on the four-mile round walk. Her song has been produced on CD.
The walk was filmed by an ITV camera crew for a forthcoming programme on Green Belt building projects and was also attended by Kevin Fitzgerald of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) who adds, ‘The CPRE acknowledges the contribution that renewable energy can make to reducing climate change, but this should not be achieved by ruining our landscape.’
But it would seem not all residents in Benington are against the plans. Campaign group Yes 2 Benington Wind Farm has been set up to counter the SWBF and is being run by resident Chris Stichbury.
Chris says, ‘It is expected that the Benington project will supply enough power for 3,000 homes. To put that into perspective, that’s equivalent to three villages the size of Watton-at-Stone. The public now recognises the attractiveness of wind power.
‘An ICM survey for Greenpeace, undertaken in 2004, discovered that 80 per cent support government plans to significantly increase the number of wind turbines in Britain, with just eight per cent opposed, and 70 per cent would support the development of a wind farm in their area.’
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding