March 31, 2011

MoD forces city to scrap turbine plan

By Reg Little, The Oxford Times, 31 March 2011

Plans for a massive wind turbine between the Cowley car works and Horspath have been scrapped – but council chiefs have pledged similar plans for the city.

The 130m turbine plan, for land opposite the Horspath Road athletics track, has been axed after the Ministry of Defence said it would cause unacceptable interference to surveillance radar.

It had sparked an outcry amongst residents who warned the £3m Oxford City Council turbine would tower over Green Belt land and Shotover Country Park.

It was seen as one of the council’s flagship projects to make Oxford one of Europe’s greenest cities, generating enough electricity to power 1,200 homes.

Now council chiefs are looking at land at Sandford Brake, near Grenoble Road, but have ruled out a long-mooted site at South Hinksey.

John Tanner, the council’s executive member for a cleaner, greener city, said: “This is a great disappointment, but we will not be blown off course.

“It is vital that we put up quite a number of wind turbines in and around Oxford if we are to keep the lights on in the future. Horspath was to have been an example to other people.”

He said: “But this radar problem is one affecting the whole of Oxfordshire. We may have to go to the Ministry of Defence and ask, ‘where can we put up a big turbine?’”

Partnerships for Renewables, the council’s partner in the scheme, said although the MoD had objected for “some time”, it had pressed ahead with the plans on advice of aviation consultants. It added: “Despite many months of consultation with aviation consultants and the MoD, we have been unable to find a resolution that will allow a turbine of this scale to be installed at this site without causing unacceptable interference to the MoD’s primary surveillance radar.”

Martin Harris, a member of Horspath Parish Council, welcomed the news.

He said: “Had it gone ahead, this project would have been unacceptably intrusive in the narrow strip of Green Belt.

“Some of the low-altitude air traffic would have needed to divert around the area of the proposed wind turbine.

“That would have inevitably resulted in more aircraft of all kinds flying over the densely populated suburbs and historic city centre of Oxford.”

Michael Tyce, spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “It would be good if the news about Horspath represented a victory for common sense on the part of Oxford City Council and that the council had come to understand that building monster turbines where it isn’t windy would have been an environmental catastrophe, not a green triumph.”

CPRE Oxfordshire campaign manager Dr Helena Whall said if the plans had gone ahead the council would have “harmed the city’s historic heritage simply to polish its green credentials.”

A similar city council turbine plan for Cutteslowe Park in North Oxford was withdrawn last year because it would have interfered with RAF radar systems.

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