The company behind the failed bid to build a towering wind farm in the Blackmore Vale is now planning to erect six gigantic turbines close to the original Cucklington site.
It was revealed last week that Ecotricity is considering the construction of a huge wind farm between Bourton and Milton on Stour.
The company believes the scheme would create a source of sustainable energy for 10,000 homes but local people are worried.
Debbie Allard of Whistley Farm in Milton on Stour is afraid the looming turbines would be ruinous to her family business.
Mrs Allard explained that she received a note from neighbouring farmer Keith Harris explaining the proposal last week. It is expected that an application will be made to build four of the turbines on Mr Harris’ Manor Farm in Silton and two on his brother George’s nearby Feltham Farm. The proposed site of the 120-metre turbines is close to the West Bourton crossroads on the B3081.
The Allard family has farmed at Whistley Farm, which is just 500 metres from the nearest proposed turbines, more than 80 years. As the dairy industry fell on hard times, the family invested in diversification projects to keep their business viable.
A livery business has been developed at Whistley Farm and the Allards built their first holiday cabin and a fishing lake on the site two years ago. A second cabin is currently under construction but the Allards fear the huge turbines could spell the end for their diversification enterprise.
“We are completely shocked,” Mrs Allard said. “We have two young children and have invested everything into the holiday business.
“We sell our holidays on the basis of getting away from the rat race to the peace and tranquillity of the countryside. The constant humming of the turbines will put people off and will have an impact on our children’s quality of life.
“Turbines also spook horses so people wouldn’t be able to ride horses on the farm. It would destroy our business completely.”
Mrs Allard is also concerned that the proposed scheme could be the thin end of the wedge.
“We have no way of knowing how many turbines they will stop at. The Harris family has a lot of land around here – it could really open the floodgates,” she added.
Ecotricity’s original plans to build two turbines in Cucklington made national headlines and prompted the formation of anti-wind turbine action group Save the Vale in 2003. This application was thrown out by South Somerset District Council in March 2004. The council believed the two 100-metre turbines would cause an unacceptable impact on the surrounding landscape.
Save the Vale, which is now investigating alternative green energy solutions, has pledged its support to the Allard family.
A spokesman for the group described large-scale wind farms as “engineering monsters”.
“We will help to fight this application. We have the information at our fingertips having gone through the awful birth pains of being the first people to have to deal with something like this.
“A beautiful landscape could be lost forever, properties would be devalued and there are noise and health issues.
“This will be a tougher fight as a lot of the planning safeguards are no longer there.”
Ecotricity managing direct Dale Vince explained that the company is currently conducting a scoping exercise with North Dorset District Council. He expects to have a full planning application ready by the end of the year.
Mr Vince said: “This is about climate change. We have to accept that we need to make some kind of change and we have to accept that we can either make a positive change or we’ll get a negative one by default.
“People have to be less selfish. It is the nature of the beast that we have to make wind energy in the countryside – where some people are lucky enough to live.”
Commenting on the potential impact to local tourism, Mr Vince added: “Evidence actually shows that wind turbines don’t degrade tourism, they enhance it because people like the way they look.
“There won’t be a noise issue. Noise is an objective thing that can be measured and controlled.”
When asked how he felt about the prospect of another clash with Save the Vale, Mr Vince added: “I am pleased to be back in the game here. We have done a lot of work and we believe there is a potential wind farm here.
“We didn’t follow the first Cucklington application through but this one will go to pubic inquiry if it has to.”
The plans will be discussed at a public meeting in Bourton School at 7pm on Friday 8th February.
By Mathew Manning
1 February 2008
Save The Vale: savethevale.org.uk
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