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MoD concerns put windfarm plan in doubt

The debate over onshore windfarms will be thrust back into the spotlight after mid-Norfolk planning officials performed a U-turn on proposals for six new turbines following complaints from the Ministry of Defence.

Next Generation wants to put up the 120m high turbines at Swaffham, and last month officers from Breckland Council recommended approval for the scheme.

However, councillors put off making a final decision on the project – between the A1065 Castle Acre Road and Sporle – to allow more investigation of concerns raised by the MoD.

Breckland’s development control committee will be urged to throw the plans out.

A report by officers says: “While there is an acknowledged need to secure suitable sites for renewable energy sources, in the light of detailed objection from Defence Estates relating to the impact of the proposal upon air traffic radar and air traffic management procedures at RAF Marham, the application is recommended for refusal.”

Wind turbine companies have previously accused the MoD of being the “biggest single obstacle to wind power in the UK”.

Next Generation say the turbines would create power for 9,500 homes and save the emission of 31,474 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 481 tonnes of sulphur dioxide and 130 tonnes of nitrogen a year.

But the Defence Estates argue the turbines would have “an unacceptable impact” on the air traffic control radar and air traffic management procedures at RAF Marham.

Next Generation has tried to get conditions imposed to overcome the concerns – however, the Defence Estates has said they would be “unreasonable and as such unenforceable”.

There have also been objections from Swaffham Town Council, Sporle and Palgrave Parish Council and Norfolk County Council.

Complaints from the MoD have already played a big part in decision making on other turbine schemes.

SLP Energy withdrew its application to build the 125m high turbines at Hemsby, near Yarmouth, last month because it says it needs more time to revise its scheme to overcome a swathe of objections, including from the MoD, which said they would interfere with radar at RAF Trimingham.

In November a windfarm at Hethel was turned down by South Norfolk councillors for similar reasons.

By Ian Clarke

Eastern Daily Press

13 January 2008