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Wind turbine debate to be settled tonight

The debate over plans for four wind turbines near Arborfield will be resolved tonight.

The proposal for the wind farm at Rushy Mead has been earmarked for refusal by planning officers at Wokingham Borough Council, however the final decision rests with councillors sitting on the planning committee.

The council has received hundreds of comments on the proposal, including messages of support from green campaigners and objections from residents concerned about the wind farms impact on Wokingham’s countryside.

Partnerships for Renewables (PfR) and The University of Reading, which owns the land, have been working on the proposals for several years. However, multiple consultation meetings and exhibitions have failed to convince some residents that the wind turbines will not create a permanent blot on the landscape.

Those against the plans also say it will not harness enough energy, comparing their potential performance with the turbine at Green Park in Reading.

Householders Against Rushy Mead (HARM) and the Loddon Valley Residents’ Association are among those against the plans, while students at the University of Reading have spoken out in favour of the scheme.

Key points from those objecting include:

– Negative visual impact on people living near the site

– Inappropriate location to capture wind energy

– Increased flood risk

– Harm will be caused to local footpaths used by walkers and horse riders

– Arborfield Local History Society has concerns about the impact on St Bartholomew’s Church in Arborfield

– Noise would cause harm to local residents.

While those in favour of the plans say:

– On shore wind is a progressive and cost-effective method of producing energy

– Plans contribute to addressing climate change

– Turbines are a dynamic modern beauty and should be part of modern life

– The existing wind turbine at Green Park in Reading is not an eyesore and is not noisy

– Plan reduces dependence on fossil fuels and reduces exposure to potentially rising prices

– Plan is a step towards a sustainable community.

Stephen Ainger, chief executive of Partnerships for Renewables, said: “We considered many environmental and technical issues during the development process and listened to feedback from stakeholders.

“We believe that our thorough approach to development has resulted in a planning application that is both designed sympathetically to the local environment and appropriate for the location.

“The fact that planning officers are suggesting refusal based purely on heritage and landscape issues is evidence that we have put a lot of effort into designing the proposal.

“We would expect the wind energy proposal to generate an amount of green electricity equivalent to that required to meet the needs of around 4,800 households.

“While we are disappointed that planning officers have recommended refusing the site we are comforted that, like us, they are satisfied that the problems raised by local residents, such as flooding, noise and shadow flicker, would not materialise as a problem from the development and we would welcome planning conditions to give residents additional comfort.”

He added of the turbines’ performance compared to Green Park: “Wind energy technology is continuously improving and the type of turbine we plan to use will be designed for the wind speeds we have measured at Rushy Mead.

“They have a lower tower height but a larger rotor than Green Park which will help it capture more energy from the wind.

“The income from a turbine is directly linked to the amount of energy it generates so it makes no financial or environmental sense to develop wind turbines that don’t perform. You must remember that we only get paid for the electricity we generate.”

Jan Heard, member of HARM, said: “We support the idea of genuine renewable energy, but the system of subsidies installed by the previous government and currently in place encourages inappropriately sited developments, at huge public expense I might add.

“Rushy Mead is an example of this, as is proven by the inefficiency of nearby Green Park.”

The planning committee will meet tonight at 7pm at the civic offices in Shute End.