December 7, 2010

Energy firm’s plea to ‘silent majority’ over turbine plan 7 December 2010

A firm wanting to put up four huge wind turbines on the Somerset Levels sparked a new row with campaigners after they called for “the silent majority’ to back the scheme.

Ecotricity finally submitted its application yesterday for four turbines at Black Ditch, near West Huntspill, and said people who want wind turbines to be built should lobby councillors just as much as those fighting the scheme.

Campaigners against the proposal, and a plan by EDF Energy for nine more turbines on the other side of the village, called on anyone considering writing in to support the scheme to “spare a thought for those affected directly”.

The Stroud-based renewable energy firm has spent the past year consulting and testing at the Huntspill site, and has now lodged an application with Sedgemoor District Council.

Ecotricity boss Dale Vince said the majority of people supported turbines, but don’t get actively involved in helping see them built. He urged the “silent majority” to take up the fight.

He added: “We hope the planning committee in particular will reflect the vast majority of people’s wish to see developments such as this – and those people the committee does hear from be a tiny but very vocal minority,” he said. “During the consultation phase we’ve listened carefully to the views of local people and as a result we’ve reduced our proposals from the original five windmills to four. By doing this we will ensure these windmills are good neighbours for people and wildlife.

“At the same time, this project will still make a vital contribution to the provision of clean energy in Somerset, which currently has just one windmill in the whole county. The four we propose will be able to power more than 6,700 local homes each year – this is equivalent to more than 15 percent of the households within Sedgemoor district.”

But John Wakefield, who is chairing the campaign group No Huntspill Windfarm, said views of people closest to the turbines should gain priority.

“I would say to the people of Somerset to spare a thought for those living nearest who don’t want these.

“There are around 9,000 people in the villages around here who will be directly affected,” he said. “We will fight this tooth and nail because it means so much to the people. There is a silent majority around here and they are opposed to this.”

Campaigners are pinning their hopes on environmental assessments, and council planners being swayed by the strength of their opposition.

They explained that the turbines – and those proposed by EDF – are on bird migration routes from the Somerset Levels to the Bristol Channel, and the impact on wildlife and noise should be taken into account.

“There’s a well-documented case going through the courts about the noise impact of these turbines,” added Mr Wakefield. “This planning application smacks of desperation by Ecotricity.”

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