Angry villagers in rural Nantwich are battling controversial plans, which they fear could destroy one of Cheshire’s most valued beauty spots.
The newly formed action group Stop Bickerton Wind Turbines is urging the thousands of tourists, walkers, cyclists and horse riders who visit Bickerton Hill and the nearby Sandstone Trail to fight plans to erect a 60-metre wind monitoring mast at the foot of the site.
The action group fears that if permission goes ahead for the mast, it will be followed by a proposal for the construction of an industrial wind power station with turbines which could be as tall as the hill itself.
The action group argues that such a development would be inappropriate and would result in the destruction of one of the county’s most popular tourist attractions.
The National Trust, which owns and manages Bickerton Hill and its Site of Special Scientific Interest, recorded 8,500 walkers on the Sandstone Trail from January to March in 2006 and the figures have risen significantly since then.
Action group member Lynne Lomax said: “We believe such an intrusive industrial development is totally inappropriate in an area recognised throughout Cheshire and surrounding counties for its outstanding beauty.
“While we agree with the need to find methods to provide renewable and greener energy, a proposal such as this will destroy the very environment that we hope to save.
“If the turbines are built, they could be as high as 125 metres and would be visible for miles.
“The proposed site lies between two Cheshire County Council designated Areas of Special County Value for Landscape and will be clearly visible from the nearby Sandstone Trail.
“They will ruin the enjoyment of thousands of walkers, horse riders and cyclists from many counties who treasure this area for its peace and tranquillity.
“In just one hour on the Bickerton Hill last Saturday I met three large groups of walkers – one from Chester, one from Warrington and a coachload from Chorley, Lancashire.
“Without exception they were shocked, then very angry when they heard about the plans.
“The effect on local businesses could be catastrophic.
“We have pubs, hotels, bed and breakfast businesses and livery stables which adjoin the site and are dependent on a regular flow of visitors for their income.
“We have already had hundreds of pledges of support and we will be out in force at the weekends, talking to the visitors who tell us the Bickerton Hill is their lung of the countryside’.
“We do not believe that onshore wind turbines are an efficient way of generating usable energy.
“There seems to be growing evidence that the government is looking more towards off shore wind power and nuclear power to provide energy.
“We have been told that a typical turbine needs a base of concrete the size of an Olympic swimming pool.
“When they are decommissioned – in say 20 years – we understand that the concrete will remain.
“This, together with the infrastructure you would need for construction traffic, could destroy a very special part of Cheshire for ever.
“The action group is determined to protect and conserve the landscape, tranquillity and wildlife of the Bickerton Hill area for the benefit of this and the next generation of residents, visitors and local businesses.”
The group is now considering its options, which could include holding a second public meeting and launching fund raising events to meet the costs of legal specialists.
A spokesman for Banks Developments Ltd said: “The development is clearly of a short-term nature and has the ability to be fully decommissioned at the end of the operable period.
“Any effects on the open countryside or areas of special county value would be completely reversible after decommissioning.”
Members of the action group are urging supporters to register on the website www.stopbickertonwindturbines.co.uk and to write with their objections to Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council planning officers before their planning meeting on February 7 quoting reference PO7/1432.
16 January 2008
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