Plans to erect a 230ft wind turbine in the grounds of an opera house have been given the go-ahead, it was announced today.
The proposal to build the turbine at the world-famous Glyndebourne Opera House, near Lewes, East Sussex, was approved by Secretary of State Hazel Blears, in a document published today.
David Pickard, general director of Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, said the turbine was expected to reduce the venue’s carbon emissions by up to 70%, and described the decision as a “significant step for Glyndebourne in its continued drive to take responsibility for the impact it has on the environment”.
The plans to build the turbine on a hill known as Mill Plain in the South Downs, a site of a proposed National Park, and already one of the country’s designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has attracted a great deal of controversy since it was first announced in January last year.
Hundreds of people attended a public inquiry into the turbine in February, where Inspector Dr Andrew Pykett heard evidence from those for and against its construction, including wildlife broadcaster Sir David Attenborough who delivered a speech in praise of the plans.
He described the turbine as an “admirable” attempt by Glyndebourne at reducing its impact on the environment and dismissed those against it as possessing a Nimby (Not In My Back Yard) attitude.
Those who were opposed to it said the turbine would ruin the picturesque landscape and the peace and tranquility of the area, and claimed it would actually be of little benefit in the bid to reduce carbon emissions.
A consortium of environmental groups, including the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the Campaign for National Parks (CNP), the South Downs Society and the Ramblers’ Association, also said the turbine would directly oppose one of the conditions of the South Downs Management Plan, which was set up to protect the landscape from development.
In the report published today, however, Ms Blears said the positive impact the turbine would have in providing a renewable source of energy outweighed any negatives.
The report said: “Overall, the Secretary of State concludes that any disadvantages of the proposal are outweighed by the benefits, and she considers that planning permission should be granted.
“The Secretary of State considers that the proposal would contribute towards the regional targets for the use of renewable energy, and that the saving in terms of carbon dioxide emissions would be an environmental benefit.
“She has considered the visual effect of the proposed turbine on the landscape and its surroundings, whilst taking account of both designations and the experiences of those who live in and visit the area. She considers the impact of the scheme would be manageable and that the effect of the proposed development would not be unacceptable.
“Overall, the Secretary of State considers that the scheme would constitute the sensitive exploitation of a renewable energy source without significant detriment to the AONB, which would thus be neither undermined or compromised.”
The document laid out certain conditions that must be met in constructing the 850 kilowatt turbine, which will consist of a 144ft tubular tower and a three-bladed rotor with a diameter of 171ft, with an overall height of 230ft.
It stipulates that building must begin within the next three years, and only once the method of constructing it has been agreed.
Before this happens a meteorological mast will be temporarily erected for one year to measure wind speeds at the site to confirm the turbine would produce its expected output.
A climate change and carbon reduction strategy must also be submitted, including a programme of measures to encourage the use of alternative modes of transport to and from the opera house and a ban on the use of helicopters by visitors, except in cases of medical emergency.
Environmental groups today lambasted the Government for the decision to build what they said would be the first industrial-scale turbine to be built in a designated national park.
Tom Oliver of the CPRE said turbines of such a height should only be built out at sea or in already-industrialised areas.
He said: “Although it is good that the Government is taking the issue of climate change more seriously, in our view this huge wind turbine at Glyndebourne is the wrong development in the wrong place.”
Ruth Chambers of the CNP said: “We are hugely disappointed by the Government’s decision in this case, which in our view fails to appreciate the national importance of the South Downs landscape.”
However she added that the charity was “heartened” by its acknowledgement that the turbine was a special case as it was in such a unique location.
She said: “This sends a very clear message to would-be turbine developers that in general nationally important landscapes such as the South Downs will be protected from large wind schemes.”
The South Downs Environmental Protection Consortium has now vowed to study the report in detail over the next few days to ensure there are no errors, which would allow it to be challenged in the High Court.
Published by Jon Land
11 July 2008
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