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Clash over impact of controversial plans for countryside wind farm

A public hearing into controversial plans for a wind farm near Thornbury heard the development would have an impact on the area.

But the arguments put forward by those in support of the scheme and those fighting it offered different assessments of how much effect the giant turbines would have on the countryside, its historic features and householders.

Bristol-based Wind Prospect Developments wants to put four 417ft (127- metre) turbines on land at Stoneyard Lane, close to the nuclear power station at Oldbury-on-Severn, to generate enough power for 5,500 homes a year.

South Gloucestershire Council rejected the plan, saying the size and scale would have a significant and harmful impact on the Severn Vale, which would not be outweighed by the renewable energy produced.

Wind Prospect appealed and planning inspector Alan Gray (pictured) yesterday opened a public hearing – not as formal as a public inquiry – in the Armstrong Hall, Thornbury. Earlier plans for him to only consider written evidence was changed due to the level of interest shown.

Mr Gray said he had spent a day touring the site and surrounding area and was aware of the views of local people.

He said: “Opinions have been expressed by local residents and others through the very substantial number of written representations received by the council at the time of the application and by the Planning Inspectorate in relation to the appeal.

“Reading them all ahead of the hearing left me in no doubt about the support for and opposition to the proposals.

“I recognise local concerns, understand there can be strong feelings about wind farms and that these can sometimes be expressed forcefully.”

Landscape architect Sue Dodwell, for Wind Prospect, said the low lying site had an extensive network of public rights of way but said there were already prominent features such as the power station, pylons and overhead cables.

She acknowledged the turbines would be taller than anything else in the area and the movement of the blades had potential to cause an impact but said after 25 years, they would be gone.

She said: “There will be significant changes in character of the landscape within 3.5 kilometres of the site but it will reduce with distance.”

Ms Dodwell also said the effect on historic structures such as the churches in Oldbury and Hill would not be significant.

But the council’s Rachel Fry said there had been an under-valuation of the landscape and the quality of views that would be affected.

Her colleague Rebecca Anthony said: “There is concern about the introduction of large scale industrial development into the area that will impact on the sense of history.”

Tony England, chairman of Rockhampton Parish Council, claimed the effect would also be felt further away in Thornbury and beyond due to the height of the structures.

Malcolm Lynden, of Oldbury-on-Severn, said: “It’s the dynamics of the turbines.

“They move, they catch the eye. The power station is static.”