A renewable energy firm is planning to build a wind farm near West Ashton in what would be the county’s first.
REG Windpower has applied to Wiltshire Council for permission to install a mast at Grange Farm in Bratton Road, near West Ashton.
It would be used to provide measurements to see if the site is suitable for a wind farm. If it proves viable then the firm, which operates 11 wind farms across the UK, would seek to install three turbines with a maximum height of 130m on the 62.7 hectare farm, now an organic dairy farm.
The nearest wind farm, which has five 49m turbines, is in Oxfordshire.
Tracey Siddle, development manager at REG Windpower, said: “It’s really early days, we’re still doing a lot of survey work, etc. I think it’s looking positive [as a site for a wind farm] but so many things need to be bottomed out.”
Miss Siddle said that the wind mast would need to be up for at least a couple of months to record enough data, in which time the company would want to start work on a surveys to be completed before a planning application was made for the turbines.
If the wind farm went ahead electricity produced by the turbines would be fed into the local grid, with REG Windpower and the landowner splitting the proceeds.
However, the plan is likely to prove controversial with concerns over the visual impact the turbines could have on the area. The location is also near to Pickett and Clanger Wood, a site of Special Scientific Interest.
Dr Andrew Murrison, MP for South West Wiltshire, said: “My initial thoughts are it would be another infringement on green space. I would also say onshore wind power is highly controversial as a source of alternative energy and my presumption is against onshore wind farms except in previously used sites.
“I have opposed them elsewhere and my feeling is that they are unlikely to provide a significant contribution to our energy need and despoil countryside. I shall follow this with a great deal of interest.”
Although at an early stage the firm has stressed it is keen to be open about their plans and involve local people.
Rob Fellows, a PR consultant working for REG, said: “We absolutely want to talk to the community, and we will be meeting the community early on.
We do want to work with local councillors and groups and the local MP. Their input can really help sculpt the site.
“We want to be completely honest with people and say this is what we want to do, and this is how we want to do it and give as much information as we can.
“People tend to read the scare stories, so we’re keen to meet people and give them the facts so they can base their decision on facts and not misinformation.”
The firm plans to organise meetings with councils and councillors and hold information and consultation events.
Richard Covington, chairman of West Ashton Parish Council, said: “We’ve been in touch with Heywood and Bratton parish councils and we’re setting up a meeting with the people making the application. It’s still early days. We haven’t taken a view on whether it should or shouldn’t go ahead yet.”
Julie Swabey, Wiltshire councillor for Ethandune, said: “These seem to be popping up all over the place and it’s a question of controls.
“If the application is for three turbines then I’m not for it I’m afraid – 130m is absolutely massive. It’s a beautiful area, imagine it with three high turbines there. I’m all for the environment and wildlife, but you have to find a balance.”
Cllr Swabey urged people to contact their councillors and parish councils with their views and added that she would be prepared to call any application in to a planning committee if a local response demanded it.
Landowner Krystyna Baker declined to comment.
REG has set up a hotline for enquiries about the scheme. For more information call 0845 262 6264.
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