Feelings ran high at a Benington public meeting where residents were torn over a controversial plan for a wind turbine in the village.
Hundreds of people packed into the parish hall for the parish council’s extraordinary general meeting, which was held to discuss a proposed 284ft (86.5m) high turbine by High Elms Lane, with many more people standing outside.
There was much criticism of applicant Andrew Bott, whose previous plan for three turbines was dismissed last year and who was accused of only wanting the facility for the income it would generate, but there was also strongly-voiced support for the scheme.
Mr Bott, a farmer, told those who attended last Wednesday that the turbine would make his farming carbon neutral, provide power for the equivalent of almost 350 houses and be quieter than a fridge.
He said: “I believe the benefits of the turbine outweigh the [visual] impact. It’s the most effective thing I can do to protect the environment.”
However, Peter Kingsnorth, a committee member of Stop Benington Wind Farm Action Group (SBWFAG), who also spoke, condemned the turbine’s visual impact and the effect it would have on nearby listed buildings.
He said: “I believe the main reason for this huge turbine is that it will provide a substantial income for the developer at the cost of this beautiful landscape.”
During question time, anger was caused by the ‘Benington Says No Wind Turbine’ signs that have been erected all over the village, along with just one ‘Support Benington Wind Turbine’ sign near Town Lane.
One man, who claimed protesters were only worried about the value of their properties falling, said: “The lad who put that up, like me, is like a student standing in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square.
“I stand by that lad. I think he’s right.”
A woman said: “If I was entering the village looking for a house I would see those placards and turn around.
“It’s a sign of a community in conflict. Who would want to live in a community like that?”
But many villagers are upset by the plans.
Keith Luetchford, who lives in one of the listed buildings affected, said to Mr Bott: “You can’t tell us it’s not noisy. You don’t know. Don’t compare a moving turbine to a fridge. We’re not stupid.”
Another man said: “You want to maximise the money on that site.”
Parish councillors agreed to hold a referendum to decide their response to the application and were due to send out questionnaires by this weekend.
Residents must submit their views by September 3 or 4 and there will be another extraordinary general meeting to discuss the outcome on September 7.
The response will be sent to East Herts Council by September 9.