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Bitter divide created over wind farm plan

A bitter division between the generations in north Dorset has emerged over plans to build four 120m-tall wind turbines in the Blackmore Vale, which go before the district council for a decision on Tuesday.

A total of 663 people have signed up to a Facebook group entitled “I think wind turbines would look cool in Gillingham”, the vast majority of whom are less than 30 years old.

And scores of messages posted on the site accuse the Save Our Silton group of being elderly, out of touch and of standing in the way of the fight against climate change by opposing the plans submitted by Ecotricity.

Members of Save Our Silton are derided online as “crumblies”, “OAPs” and “nimbys”.

The development control committee of North Dorset District Council will consider the plans on Tuesday at the RiversMeet Leisure Centre in Hardings Lane, Gillingham, selected in anticipation of high public turnout.

Ole Mullins posted the comment: “Let’s hope this application goes through this time, I am fed up with the crumblies kicking up a stink and not seeing that this is a positive move and one which we will benefit from in the future.

“I’m all for the green initiative but people round here don’t like change. People need to get with the program!”

John Cole of Blandford posted: “The nimbys who are members of SOS need to realise that the wind turbines will help the next generation.”

The size of the Facebook group demonstrates the way the younger generation are using social networking to co-ordinate support for or opposition to issues of the day.

But the group also shows the weakness of so-called “point and click” campaigning that has little follow through in the real world – the impressive level of support for the turbines online has transferred into only 22 written letters of support for the plans being submitted to North Dorset District Council.

In contrast, the traditionally organised campaign of the Save Our Silton group has persuaded 1,765 people to send letters of objection to the council.

Members of the Save Our Silton group have said they are confident the development control committee will throw out the plan to build four turbines on Manor Farm near Silton, owned by local farmer Keith Harris.

A previous plan submitted by Ecotricity for a six-turbine wind farm at the same location was unanimously rejected by the committee in July 2009.

Save Our Silton secretary Ian Barter said: “The reason a lot of young people are in favour is that they don’t know the facts. We are in favour of green energy but this is simply not a windy site.

“In our opinion, Ecotricity is motivated by money. There are massive Government subsidies on offer and you can make a huge profit.

“Some of Ecotricity’s projects make more than half of their income from Government subsidies.”

Ecotricity spokesman Mike Cheshire said: “The idea that we are just after subsidies is a common confusion. The Government incentives only come in when the turbines are up and running and energy is being produced.

“So they can’t be both inefficient and making huge amounts in subsidies at the same time.”

Mr Cheshire refused to comment on the age demographic of the SOS group, but suggested that younger people were being excluded from the district council meeting by its timing.

He said: “It is perhaps unfortunate that the planning committee meeting that’s deciding on our wind park is happening on a Tuesday daytime, when someone working will have to take time off work to attend and make their voice heard.

“Other councils often hold their meetings in the evenings, so I hope that the council makes a special effort to hear from Dorset residents of every age.”