Their livelihoods depend on the beauty of the unspoiled countryside they love – but tourism businesses in a rural part of Dorset fear wind turbines will destroy what they have strived for years to create.
Green energy company Ecotricity is assessing a hilltop site at Milton-on-Stour, near Gillingham, with a view to putting up six 120m-high turbines.
The firm estimates they would produce enough power for 9,000 homes, which would help the UK hits its target of sourcing 10 per cent of its electricity from sustainable sources by 2010.
But Tim and Debbie Allard, whose Whistley Farm home is just 500 metres downwind of the site, fear it would spell disaster for their holiday homes and livery businesses.
Neighbours Nicki and Charles Baxter, who run a bed and breakfast, agree and, across the hillside, Cindy Brierely and David Smith say views from their bungalow will be ruined.
Mr Allard said: “If the turbine scheme goes ahead our visitors will see them as they come up our drive. They won’t want that.
“Things of beauty can’t be created over-night but they can be undone so quickly.
“I’m passionate about this farm – my great-grandfather bought it and I want to hand it on to our children – but we need to make money and that’s why we needed to diversify.
“Encouraging people to stay and have holidays in England is green tourism.”
Ecotricity says it is still in the early stages of consultation with organisations including the district council, Ministry of Defence and English Nature.
But the three families are so worried they are holding a public meeting at Bourton Primary School at 7pm on Friday to discuss the plans.
They intend to form a campaign group, tentatively called BLOT – Beautiful Landscape Or Turbine? – to fight the scheme.
Work is still in progress on the second of two holi-day cabins at the Allards’ farm. The first cabin, completed two years ago, has been fully booked all year round by people who say they are inspired by the natural beauty of the landscape.
Mrs Allard said: “Our biggest concern is the effect on tourism, not just ours but the whole area. It’s vital in this part of the world.
“We produce haylage for horses and have a livery business.
“The flickering light from turbines will be a problem. It will spook the horses and we won’t be able to ride on the farm which will mean we’ll lose business.”
Mrs Brierley said: “This isn’t nimbyism. It would be a terrible shame to despoil the landscape.”
The area is also used by hang-gliders and by RAF Hercules aircraft.
The Allards, who have two children, Adam, 11, and Ben, nine, are also concerned about health problems, including headaches and sleeplessness, reported by some people living near turbines.
Dale Vince, managing director of Ecotricity, said: “It’s not uncommon for concerns of these nature to be raised when a wind project is proposed. Invariably, such concerns are sourced from the internet.
“The truth about wind energy is that properly designed and sited modern turbines don’t cause problems for neighbours.
“There is really only one residual impact to discuss – the fact you can see them.
“To some people this is a good thing and to others it isn’t – it’s in the eye of the beholder.
“Usually concerns over house prices and noise, etc, are a smokescreen for objections on visual grounds.”
Four of the turbines would be on land owned by farmer Keith Harris and two on land owned by his cousin, George. Both declined to comment.
7 February 2008
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