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First salvoes fired at Gloucestershire wind turbines inquiry

Windfarm protestors were out in force at the start of a public inquiry into Ecotricity’s plans for four turbines in the Severn Vale.

Around 40 supporters of the Save Berkeley Vale campaign massed at Stroud District Council’s Ebley Mill headquarters before the hearing yesterday.

It will decide whether four 120m-tall windmills can be built by the Stroud company in Stinchcombe.

The objectors then took their seats to listen to the start of the inquiry by government planning inspector Richard Thomas.

Save Berkeley Vale’s solicitor Martin Pearse the wellbeing of the 400 people who live in 160 nearby homes were central to the campaigners’ case.

The suggested turbines would be “startlingly” close to houses and businesses, he said.

“The impact on landscape quality and visual amenity is significant and harmful,” Mr Pearse added.

The site is close to the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the windfarm’s impact on that countryside was a main issue, Mr Thomas agreed.

He said the impact on the living conditions of neighbours, the noise and shadow flicker from turbine blades also had to be considered.

The windmills’ effect on listed buildings and heritage sites in the surrounding area was another consideration, he said.

Ecotricity barrister David Hardy said there was a “massive shortfall” in the region against targets for renewable energy.

“There is more than a fourfold increase needed in renewables to meet national targets,” he said.

Jack Smythe for Stroud District Council, whose members earlier rejected the windfarm, told the inquiry the “sheer size” of the turbines should be considered.

They would be taller that St Paul’s Cathedral and Mr Smythe warned: “If this appeal succeeds these structures will be far and away the tallest in the local area.”

Mr Thomas was expected to hear witnesses from all sides and to permit cross-examinations until the end of Friday. The inquiry is then due to be adjourned for reopening and completion in March. A decision will be announced later.