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Lotus wind farm backed by one vote

A controversial scheme to develop a wind farm at Lotus Cars headquarters was finally approved tonight – by one vote.

South Norfolk Council’s planning committee voted 8-7 in favour of the project which will provide all Lotus’s energy requirements at its site at Hethel with spare electricity to power an estimated 1,000-plus homes every year.

The committee heard strong objections from local residents who claim the three 120-metre high turbines will blight their community, as well as comments from supporters – a 626-name petition in favour of the wind farm having been submitted.

Colin Rudd, of Bracon Ash and Hethel Parish Council, said they opposed the development on the grounds of visual impact, noise and interference with TV signals from the nearby Tacolneston masts.

He claimed the TV reception in thousands of homes would suffer. “We are looking at 20,000 people being badly affected. The repercussions could be horrendous” he said.

Neighbouring resident Stephen Watson disputed the accuracy of developer Ecotricity’s photo montage of the site and produced his own version to illustrate the visual impact of the turbines which will be built in the middle of the Lotus test track.

“These turbines are huge, they will dominate the countryside for miles around,” he said.

Simon Wood, technical director of Lotus, said the wind farm was not “make or break” for the business but stressed it would meet all their energy needs at Hethel.

“It provides part of our strategy of being a green employer in the area and provides us with security of supply and an efficient and clean route of generation,” he explained. “We are a high energy user and we are doing as much as we can to reduce that energy consumption.”

Isobel Downey, of Ecotricity, said it was very difficult to predict whether TV reception would be affected but they would abide by any mitigation measures imposed by the council as one of 14 planning conditions.

Supporter Andrew Boswell of Norfolk County Council said the country was going through an “energy crunch” and needed a mixture of all technologies.

“I think it is absolutely fantastic that Lotus and Ecotricity are trying to make us a leader in renewable energy” he told the committee.

Martin Wynne the committee chairman said that members had to take into account national policies and legislation and weigh these against the concerns and views of the objectors.

Diss Mercury

23 July 2008