May 13, 2008

Balloon protest is let down by plane

A balloon flown to raise awareness of controversial plans for a wind farm deflated and fell to the ground after an aircraft passed overhead.

The blimp was being flown at Great Paxton by the Cotton Farm Action Group, which opposes the planned wind farm, to show residents the height at which proposed wind turbines would stand.

A plane, thought to be a single-engine, two or four-seater aircraft, appeared to collide with the 20ft inflatable, causing it to rupture and fall to the ground.

The balloon was flying at a height of 417ft on Saturday morning when the incident occurred.

Bev Gray, chairman of the group, said: “If a small blimp can cause an accident like this, what could happen with eight giant spinning turbines?

“Enormous numbers of light aircraft fly over this area and we are also an MoD designated “low fly” zone. This could have been a disastrous accident and we dread something more serious if huge turbines are installed here.”

The group managed to borrow a blimp from another wind farm protest group in Buckinghamshire and it was flying by 3pm on Saturday and all day Sunday.

Mr Gray said: “It was fascinating to confirm the blimp could be seen from many miles away.

“We had clear sightings from as far away as Hail Weston and all along the Ouse Valley Way.”

The group had informed the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in advance of the blimp flights so that pilots would have been warned of its location and height. Visibility on Saturday was good.

Mr Gray added: “We are not sure why it popped. Whether it was from turbulence from the plane or something slightly more sinister we don’t know.”

Energy firm npower renewables plans to build eight wind turbines on the site of the former wartime airfield at Cotton Farm.

The plans have met fierce opposition from campaigners who say the turbines would be the biggest in the UK, would stand twice as tall as Ely Cathedral and would be visible from 30 miles away.

The group will report on Saturday’s incident to the CAA.

No report from the pilot has yet been received, according to a CAA spokeswoman.

Cambridge News

13 May 2008

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