County councillors today abandoned a £700,000 a year pay day by dropping proposals for wind turbines on any of their 35 farms.
Opposition to the plan to build wind farms on county council owned farms was led by Councillor Steve Count of March, the Cabinet member for resources and performance.
“We are putting people before profit,” said Cllr Count after a Cabinet meeting which, technically, deferred a decision but in reality ditched proposals for using council owned land for wind turbines.
“Anybody who lives or drives through Fenland knows just how much the local landscape has changed with regiments of wind farms cropping up across the area.
“Wind farms have their place in providing green energy but Fenland really has done its bit with villages and towns ringed by them. Although this means we may lose out in some income we could not carry on with this after hearing the real concerns of local people. “Instead we will be looking at the use solar photovoltaics on eight barns by the end of the year.”
The decision follows informal consultation with local councillors as well as new plans to use solar power from panels put on barns.
Finance chief Nick Dawe had told councillors earlier this year that based on current values the council’s income could peak at an annual rent of more than £700,000.
“The corresponding agricultural rent for the land lost would be less than £1,000.”
A nine month trawl through Cambridgeshire County Council’s 33,000 acres which they lease to tenants had produced a short list of four farms.
•Crowtree Farm, Farcet
•Whitehall Farm, Littleport
• Wolvey Farm, Coveney
• Morley’s Farm, Warboys.
However a council spokesman confirmed that in talks with local councillors the Farcet and Chatteris sites attracted mostly negative comments while the Coveney and Littleport sites received mix views.
County Council Leader, Nick Clarke, said: “We are developing an enviable track record on decision based around listening to the concerns of people in Cambridgeshire – the decision to keep Gamlingay Village College open, our current consultation and libraries, and now on wind farms.
“It is clear that the people of Cambridgeshire do not want wind farms, and we should be listening to those views.”
The about turn reflects the change of leadership at Shire Hall where, under the previous regime, a hunt for suitable sites began last May and as many as 35 potential sites were examined. Bidwells was given the task of opening negotiations with possible wind farm developers.
Five developers made presentations last October to a panel headed by Councillor John Reynolds, the then portfolio holder for resources and performance. He had hoped wind farms could be operational by 2014-16.
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