An increasingly bitter struggle over wind turbines in the quiet countryside newly christened David Hockney Country has led to a tit-for-tat attack on plans for a Lottery-funded bird conservation centre at one of the UK’s best-known seabird reserves.
Local campaigners, frustrated at failing to get the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to condemn three turbines proposed for a pig farm at Bempton Cliffs, near Bridlington in east Yorkshire, have asked the Heritage Lottery Fund to reconsider its support for the centre.
The cliffs are the biggest seabird breeding colony on the English coast, with hundreds of thousands of puffins, gannets, guillemots and kittiwakes thronging every ledge and crevice in the summer breeding season. The Bempton Residents Against Turbines group says that three windmills, including a 150ftBem tower within half-a-mile of the reserve would pose a serious threat to the birds. An estimated 100,000 migratory species such as whooper swans and pink-footed geese which use the area as a stopping-place.
David Hinde of the residents’ campaign said: “The RSPB doesn’t deserve to have the P in its title if it fails to help the campaign. Bird lovers will just be amazed. The 150ft tower would be the largest commercial wind turbine in the Wolds – it would open the floodgates to more of its type. The RSPB is supposed to be a protective partner in looking after our Flamborough Heritage Coast, as well as a tourism partner. What will all those people who proudly display an RSPB members’ badge on their car or house window think about this?”
The group has registered a formal objection with the Heritage Lottery Fund against any further funding of the RSPB’s proposed new centre at the cliffs, which has been given £33,000 to draw up initial plans. In a letter sent after a village meeting attended by 120 residents, Hinde asks the quango to consider evidence alleging major birdkill at turbine sites on migratory routes in Spain and other European countries.
The RSPB said that it could only oppose developments on conservation grounds and there was no evidence that the planned turbines would do any harm at Bempton. The charity’s spokesman Nick Shelton said: “The seabirds keep to the sea and the cliffs. They would not go near the turbines, and the other birds – whether local or migratory – know how to avoid them, just as they do with buildings.
“We cannot object to wind turbines on landscape grounds but when we have scientific cause for concern, we do not hesitate. This hasn’t happened very often, but when it has, we have achieved changes because of the strength of our evidence. In wider terms, energy from windpower is clean and renewable, and if there is one overwhelming threat to wildlife and conservation, it is global warming.”
The RSPB also urged local people not to cut off their nose to spite their face by transferring the turbine argument to the planned visitor centre. Shelton said: “Bempton Cliffs bring thousands of visitors to this area to everyone’s benefit and it would be a shame to do anything to detract from that.”
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