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Dorset wind farms strategy whips up a storm

A strategy which earmarks 180 wind turbines for Dorset – including 54 in the north of the county – has met fierce opposition.

The Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole Renewable Energy Strategy says its target is not binding but warns of likely penalties if contributions to national renewable energy generation levels are not met.

The strategy has been drawn up by Dorset Energy Group, comprising of representatives from all the county’s local authorities with input from a range of partners and support from Regen SW, a Government quango scheduled to be scrapped.

The findings have been attacked by Save Our Silton, Save the Vale and Dorset Against Rural Turbines.

The document, currently under consultation, envisages 180 giant turbines in Dorset.

Bournemouth was given none but 71.5 were suggested for West Dorset, 53.5 for North Dorset, 41.5 in Purbeck, 12 in East Dorset, and 0.5 of a mast each for Poole, Christchurch and Weymouth & Portland.

If 180 masts were erected they might cover a total of 22 square kilometres.

Save Our Silton recently campaigned successfully against a proposal for 400ft turbines but there is still time for Ecotricity to appeal against North Dorset District Council’s two refusals of planning permission. Chris Langham, chairman of SOS, said the strategy document was worrying in terms of its value to any appeal.

Save Our Silton says that despite the enormous impact the strategy could have on the Dorset landscape, there has been little public consultation or advertising of it.

Mr Langham said: “When developers chose the Silton site they did not use wind speed data collected there, but instead used the UK average figure, which is much higher. The subsidy system would still make it profitable to build the turbines here.”

Nicky Baxter, another Save Our Silton member whose tourism business was close to the proposed turbine site said: “During the applications the worry about losing my business was constant. I felt a cloud over my future lifted when North Dorset District Council rejected the proposal in March.

“A wind turbine recently near me is only one fifth the height of those proposed in the strategy but is very visible from many directions”.

Dorset Against Rural Turbines, which fought first against proposals in the Winterborne Valley and more recently at East Stoke, claims 60 villages could be threatened if the strategy is adopted.

At a recent meeting of community association Save The Vale, which successfully fought turbines at Cucklington on the Somerset border, chairman Campbell Dunford asked who was really deciding the county’s strategy.

He said: “The consultation document simply ignores some forms of renewable development in favour of others. The report seriously overstates the potential for onshore wind in Dorset.

“While there has been care to avoid the most sensitive Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and heritage coastline, proposed developments could border these sites, and the visual impact would be significant”.

He said adopting the plans would effectively disenfranchise councillors and voters because of a presumption in favour of development in the imminent Localism Bill and new planning rules allowing applications which conformed to “local development strategies”.

The strategy can be found on the website www.dorsetforyou.com/402620. The county council is expected to review the proposals in October and consultation is open to outside submissions until Friday, September 30.