May 20, 2008

Wind farm bid fans fury in countryside

Developers have told rural residents that they have listened to their concerns over a proposed wind farm.

Nuon Renewables has lodged a planning application for seven, 110-metre high wind turbines at Bearstone, near Woore, on the Staffordshire-Shropshire border following 18 months of environmental studies and consultations.

The company says the Poplar Lane site will be a “21st century symbol of people’s commitment to renewable energy”.

But opponents of the project fear it will dominate the landscape, and affect both wildlife and nearby communities.

Nuon says that, in response to concerns raised at a public exhibition last summer, it has moved the site access point from Bearstone Road to the B5026. This means lorries would avoid the nearby village of Knighton during the wind farm’s construction.

The company says it is also looking at ways of avoiding shadow flicker in people’s homes, caused when sunlight passes through the rotating blades.

It proposes introducing screening, such as trees, or shutting down the turbines whenever the problem occurs.

Graham Davey, project manager for Nuon, said: “We feel that the proposal is of a scale appropriate to the setting and the contemporary rural economy.

“There are of course some genuine concerns that require safeguards, not only in the design of the proposal, but in ensuring compliance in the construction and operation of the wind farm.

“It is particularly important that we take steps to avoid the occurrence of any shadow flicker, or noise nuisance for neighbours.

“I can assure all concerned that Nuon is a responsible developer and operator and will fully comply with the standards and conditions which will form a key element on the planning consent.”

Protest group Vortex (Veto On Rural Turbine Expansion) has published a leaflet highlighting the importance of the surrounding countryside in response to the planning application.

It says the ancient wooded landscape around Woore is a haven for wildlife, such as bats, water voles, lapwings and barn owls. Vortex believes habitats will be destroyed by the development, and the turbines will inevitably kill birds and bats.

Nuon, which has produced an environmental statement as part of its application, says it will fund and manage a range of nature improvements.

Vortex member Steve Ellsmoor lives at Dorrington Hall Farm, the boundary of which is 125 metres from the site.

He said: “I think the application is appalling; it degrades us and it degrades the countryside. It will never be the same if this goes ahead. What is the point in destroying something you’re trying to save?

“We’re going through the application with a fine toothcomb, trying to find holes in it.

“Government guidelines say that where there is a possibility of shadow flicker, the turbines should be at least 800 metres away from homes.

“But there are homes 700 metres away from this site. They haven’t been able to mitigate that. They just say they’ll plant a hedge.”

Nuon has identified 13 properties that could be affected by flicker. The extent of any potential problem will be known once the firm has chosen the model of turbine it will use.

The firm intends to enter into a legal agreement as part of any planning consent to ensure the avoidance of flicker.

North Shropshire District Council will consider the application over the coming months.

Phil Corrigan

The Sentinel

20 May 2008

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