A campaign to halt a proposed wind farm on Sheffield parkland is picking up speed.
Protesters this week lobbied leading councillors in their attempts to blow away the plans for Westwood Country Park at High Green.
And they pointed to opposition from their local MP, Angela Smith, who says the park is “totally unsuitable” for a wind farm, partly because it would be near hundreds of homes.
Andy Redfern, who chairs the action group, Save Westwood Country Park, said: “The storm that this has elicited in local people is quite tangible.
“This is the only location in the UK so near such a large estate of family homes. In fact, in Wales, Scotland and other European nations this would not be allowed. When shown the location, our QC stated of the council ‘They must be mad’.”
Mr Redfern added: “This is a country park. If the council tried to do this in Graves Park, you can imagine the reception it would get. I think the council thought this would be an easy touch.”
The council has authorised a feasibility study for up to six turbines being installed as part of a commitment to promoting sustainable energy.
Its initial investigations pointed to Westwood Country Park as offering the most advantages, with what were considered to be relatively limited environmental consequences.
Discussions have already been held with five potential developers, and the idea is that any successful bidder would meet the estimated £12m design, planning and development costs of a wind farm in return for a minimum 20 year lease.
It is intended that the turbines of between 60 and 100 metres could provide a generating capacity of up to 12 MW, equivalent to providing enough electricity for several thousand homes.
Andy Nolan, the council’s Head of Environmental Strategy, said this week: “The council is seeking to assess the viability of Westwood Country Park for the development of wind.
“At this stage we have no fixed views or expectations of what that potential is and we will expect developers to identify that potential. All proposals will require a full environmental impact assessment that will take into account the health impacts of the proposals.”
Lobbied by the action group at the council’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Coun Mary Lea, cabinet member for sustainable environment, said: “Consultation is vital on this development and we have already gone out to the area twice. We will go out and consult, and the views of local people will be taken on board. A further report will be made to cabinet later in the year.”
Coun Lea added any proposals to build a wind farm would go through the normal planning process, giving opportunity for objections to be taken into account.
Mr Redfern asked councillors: “Given this is a piece of green belt land and Hillsborough MP Angela Smith opposes these plans, as do local residents, will you abandon the plans? No other windfarms are near so many homes. Please stop this madness.”
Campaigners are also raising objections on the basis of the likely noise, the ‘whooshing’ from the blades, the visual impact and the safety implications. Mr Redfern said the blades of a wind turbine in Denmark had fragmented after going out of control.
Already the action group has distributed 3,000 leaflets and 3,000 letters to raise awareness of the situation. Mr Redfern said that less than 2% of local people supported a wind farm in the park.
The statement from Angela Smith reads: “Like most people I believe wind energy will need to play an important part in providing the UK with its future energy needs.
“However, Westwood Park is designated as a park land in the Sheffield Development Framework; it is in the green belt and has further protection as a nature conservation area. These considerations need to be taken into account by Sheffield City Council before any proposal is furthered.
“Another major concern for many local people is the very close proximity to hundreds of family homes and these proposals could have a dramatic affect on their quality of life”.
“It is my firm view therefore that Westwood Park is totally unsuitable for the development of a wind farm and I will be calling on Sheffield City Council to abandon this proposal.”
By Peter Kay
4 April 2008
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