The hills overlooking Ilfracombe are being looked at as a potential site for North Devon’s next wind farm.
Testing equipment has been installed by British Telecom at Greater Shelfin Farm, Mullacott, to see if conditions are suitable for wind turbines.
North Devon Council agreed planning permission for the 60ft BT anemometer or “met mast”, which carries the meteorological testing equipment, for a period of three years.
But the debate has already begun, as the site is part of the council’s designated coastal preservation area.
Lawrence Wright of Middle Campscott Farm at nearby Lee, said: “I find it very worrying that the planners can allow the furthering of this project, when it is in a coastal preservation area and bordering the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
“It’s completely contradictory, when the council is seeking a judicial review over the Fullabrook Down decision.”
BT spokesman Jason Mann explained: “As a company we are one of the biggest consumers of power in the UK. But we made a commitment in 1996, to reduce our carbon emissions by 80% by 2016.
“We would like to stress that this is only one of many sites around the country that we are testing and it is still very much in the preliminary, early testing stage.
“Of course we would consult with all the necessary authorities, including the Civil Aviation Authority, MoD, Natural England, English Nature and all the other relevant bodies, should we decide to take this further.”
Linda Blanchard, manager of the Northern Devon Coast and Countryside Service confirmed that the site was outside the AONB, but added: “We would be very interested in what the proposals would be, if this idea is developed. It is always a quandary for us because we don’t want to say no to renewable energy developments. But on the other hand we would have to look at each application on its own merits.
“We would have to look at the impact on the peace and tranquility, which plays a big part of an AONB and although this site is outside the boundary – there may be concerns about the impact on the view, if it were a large scale development.”
Ilfracombe’s new mayor, Geoff Fowler said: “I think we would have to see what the proposals were, down the line, before making any judgements.
“For Ilfracombe the offshore wind proposal, or even tidal power would be preferable, as it would bring jobs and tick all the right boxes for us, but we can’t be blinkered to this.
“It’s three years down the line and we may be in a better position to know which direction the government wants to move, regarding renewable energies, by then.”
A spokesman for North Devon Council said: “Planning permission has been granted for BT to install an anemometer.
“However, approval for an anemometer, which measures wind speed, does not automatically mean we would provide planning permission for a wind farm application on the site.
“We must deal with each application on its own merits and cannot prejudge any possible future applications.
“The council is not against the use of wind energy as a renewable power source, but we believe the impact on the North Devon landscape is also an important consideration and the right locations must be carefully chosen.”
North Devon Journal
15 May 2008
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