Green energy firm Ecotricity is to lock horns with district planners by lodging an appeal against the refusal of consent for a controversial wind farm at the Lotus cars’ test track at Hethel.
It follows news last week that the Ministry of Defence no longer believes the three 120m wind turbines planned for the site, near Wymondham, would cause “unacceptable interference” to air defence radar at RAF Trimingham.
The ministry’s initial objection that the turbines would pose a threat to national security, was a key factor in the scheme being thrown out by south Norfolk Council in November last year. And the change of heart – following a detailed re-appraisal – could open the way to more green power projects.
But while welcoming the MoD’s U-turn, Ecotricity’s managing director, Dale Vince, is critical of the district council for the way it dealt with the application.
“The MoD always said the problem would go away. We’re glad it’s sooner rather than later but just wish they’d carried out these ‘thorough investigations’ before they objected,” he said.
In terms of what we’re planning – we told the council they were wrong to turn this down on radar grounds, it should’ve been clear at the time. They were also wrong to turn it down on landscape grounds – it goes directly against officers’ advice and the council’s own policies.
“South Norfolk currently hosts the grand sum of zero wind turbines and the question that begs to be asked is if not here on an industrial site – then where in the district can wind turbines go? Ecotricity will appeal the decision and are confident that it will be overturned.”
.However, council leader John Fuller defended the planning committee’s decision to reject the application.
“It would have been inconceivable that councillors would have put national security at risk by flying in the face of stong objections from the Ministry of Defence,” he said.
“If that objection is now lifted, a fresh look can be made and councillors will be guided by the results of a new landscape impact assessment, prepared some months ago for use in assessing land-based turbine applications such as this.”
Alan Benstead, chairman of campaign group Runga set up to fight the Lotus wind farm, said he was surprised the MoD had dropped its opposition to the Hethel wind farm.
“I think it is fair to say that the campaign will continue on a much higher level, and we shall await Ecotricity’s appeal,” he added.
12 March 2008
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