Residents of a Cornish parish described a rural idyll under threat as they continued their fight to block a £5 million wind farm.
Members of the action group Morwenstow Against Turbines (MAT) gave evidence at a public inquiry into an appeal by Crimp Wind Power Ltd against North Cornwall District Council’s refusal to grant planning permission.
The company had applied to build three 81m wind turbines at Crimp, in the parish of Morwenstow.
Group member Peter Wright voiced the fears of many residents over the future of the wildlife of the area and the surrounding landscape.
Describing the scene, Mr Wright said: “It is not every locality that can boast over 30 species of butterfly, a high proportion of red and amber listed birds, both resident and migrant, a fantastic range of mammals and invertebrates and a rich tapestry of flora. This is wild England, an area where human influence hasn’t overshadowed and inflicted itself on the wildlife and landscape.
“There are not many places where you can walk out of a pub and see cream spotted tiger moths and a privet hawk moth sat on the wall underneath a light, an otter meandering down the road, hen harriers hunting in the fields or a group of deer grazing in the early morning.”
He drew the planning inspector’s attention to various studies conducted in the United States and Europe which showed birds were killed by turbines, pointing out that American research indicated as many as 78 per cent of the birds killed were songbirds that flew by night on migration.
He added: “It is generally accepted that coastal fringes are used and is reasonable to assume there will be birds flying in the area at night, particularly in the spring and autumn.”
Other residents who run tourism businesses quoted holidaymakers as saying what particularly attracted them was the peace and tranquillity.
According to a survey carried out by MAT, 40 properties lie within 800m of the proposed turbine site and 43 properties would be subjected to a predicted noise level above 35 decibels.
The chairman of the Cornwall branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, John Hilton, also gave evidence saying it was concerned that, while the site is not within an area of outstanding natural beauty, it would impinge on the landscape.
He said: “An area of outstanding natural beauty means just that, outstanding, something special. One reason visitors come to Cornwall is the breathtaking scenery.
“We must avoid the salami-slicing approach to land use, where a small piece of land is taken, and whilst it is not in the AONB, it is very near and nibbling away.”
Another resident, Sue Wright, made an impassioned plea on behalf of the resident bat populations in the area. The proposed site lies directly between the Coombe Mill SSSI and a significant roost site at Gooseham Mill. The inquiry had heard earlier in the week from an ecology consultant, Ian Crowe, of the vitally important corridor between the two areas which is used by nine different species of bats.
Mrs Wright said: “Fatalities to any of the bat populations using the site over the 25-year life- span of the turbines could have a devastating cumulative effect as studies show that all bats reproduce exceptionally slowly.”
She reminded the inquiry that bats were a protected species.
The inquiry continues today.
By Marcia Castle
1 February 2008
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