Swindon is running ‘a huge risk’ as the council mulls over whether or not to reject plans for three giant wind turbines at Honda’s plant.
That is the stark warning from the leader of the council, his opposite number, and one of the town’s leading trade unionists, who have all spoken out about the consequences of refusing the car giant’s plans.
There has been an unprecedented public outcry from residents over the move to build the trio of London Eye-sized turbines.
But now rival councillors have reached across the political divide to declare: ‘we must look at the bigger picture as well’.
Council leader Rod Bluh (Con, Dorcan) said: ”I believe we’re running huge risks. There’s a perception wind turbines are all about an environmental issue and its not of economic importance to Honda.
“I’m satisfied that’s wholly inaccurate. Honda has targets on renewable energy to meet legally. It is a major user of energy, and the energy costs of the Honda plant in Swindon are the highest of any plant they have in the world.
“Honda is absolutely clear. This is an important part of their business plan.”
He said it is up to the planning committee to decide, but up to 10,000 jobs would be at stake if Honda were ever to pull out of the town.
And Mark Dempsey (Lab, Parks) acting Labour leader while Jim Grant (Western) is on holiday, said: “It’s vital for our economy we keep Honda in Swindon and vital for our environment that we help businesses generate green energy.
“As fuel costs soar. businesses need to develop new forms of energy to survive.
“If they can’t, there’s a risk Honda and the thousands of jobs it provides could leave Swindon.
“Climate change is already having an impact on millions of people around the globe, but they’re not seen or heard.
“If not here then where? If not now then when?”
Andy Newman, branch secretary of the GMB, which represents scores of tradesmen and workers who supply the Honda plant, said: “Anything which jeopardises Honda’s position in Swindon jeopardises the local economy.
“To be honest I’m a bit sceptical that wind turbines are going to spoil the scenery when there’s a great big car factory there already.
“There’s a bit too much NIMBY-ism when it comes to renewable energy. I haven’t heard any compelling arguments against it.”
Des Fitzpatrick, chairman of the pressure group Ill Wind, which opposes the turbine plan, said: “Honda invested £1.4bn in the Swindon plant. There’s no way they’ll abandon that if they don’t get the turbine application approved.
“The application to build turbines should stand or fall on its own merits.”
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