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Tight security at wind turbine meeting in Fenland village

A wind farm consortium disclosed today that they used security guards to patrol the grounds of a Fenland village hall where they were meeting with parish councillors to discuss their proposals.

Developers of the proposed wind farm at Marshland St James said they have “agreed to undertake further consultation with local people after a meeting with parish councillors that was held under tight security and with a police presence to prevent disruption.”

The statement was issued by Bruce Pittingale through Peterborough based Smye Holland Associates, the newly appointed PR specialists brought in by the consortium

“The extraordinary security measures were a response to earlier incidents which have included arson, vandalism and threats of physical violence,” said Mr Pittingale, the former energy conservation manager for Fenland District Council.

“A planned public exhibition in Marshland St James to seek the views of local people on the proposals last month was called off at short notice after the organisers received threats of violence and of damage to vehicles and property.”

Mr Pittingale, one of the public faces of the Marshland Wind Farm, said: “At the tightly guarded information evening with parish councillors last week the company agreed to organise a replacement public exhibition in Marshland St James now that it has had time to organise appropriate security and to liaise with the police.

“It also agreed to hold an additional exhibition at Tilney St. Lawrence after parish councillors there undertook to organise a date at the village hall – the only viable location in the village.

“The company had previously been told that the hall was so fully booked that it was impossible to hold a meeting.”

Marshland Wind Farm has proposed a development of 19 wind turbines on land adjoining Marshland St James.

Detailed proposals are being put forward for public consultation prior to a formal application for development consent from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989.

Mr Pittingale alleges that the owners of the land where turbines may be sited have been subjected to “a catalogue of intimidation and abuse. An anemometer set up to test the viability of the site was destroyed, contractors carrying out survey work have been physically threatened and landowners’ property has been subjected to acts of vandalism and arson.”

He added: “We are keen to obtain the views of local people and to reflect these in the proposals which we put forward to BERR.

“We very much regretted having to cancel the public exhibition at Marshland St James, the village right at the heart of the proposed development, but the very explicit threats of violence which we received meant we could not guarantee the safety either of our own staff or of the public visiting the exhibition.

“We were delighted to be able to inform the parish councillors last week of the proposal and to answer their questions.

“We are also very pleased to be able to respond positively to their requests for us to schedule exhibitions in the two villages where our earlier plans for such events had to be cancelled. We will be working closely with the police about arrangements for security at these events, as we were forced to do for the meeting with the parish councillors.”

The company says it hopes to make announcements about dates for the two new public exhibitions shortly.

Mr Pittingale added: “It had intended to submit its proposals to BERR later this month but will now postpone this at least until May in order to take into account comments from the two public exhibitions.”

By John Elworthy

The Wisbech Standard

8 April 2008