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Energy farm wins Billericay wind turbine battle  

Credit:  Billericay Gazette, www.thisistotalessex.co.uk 22 February 2012 ~~

A controversial energy farm in the heart of the green belt will be expanded after permission was given to build two 80ft wind turbines there.

The new masts will be added to an array of solar panels at land near the Old Kings Head pub in Stock Road.

Permission was granted by a margin of only one vote at a Chelmsford Borough Council meeting last week.

Several local residents attended the meeting to question why a “commercial enterprise” should be allowed in the Metropolitan Green Belt bordering Billericay.

County councillor Ian Grundy, who represents Stock, told the Gazette: “A lot of people put a great deal of effort into creating a Village Design Statement which was accepted last October by Chelmsford council with many accolades. We might as well not have bothered.

“The VDS was underpinned by our primary defence of the green belt. I also thought no council believed and defended its green belt as strongly as Chelmsford.”

Barry Barnes, who owns two homes close to the renewables site, said: “We were given five days to challenge this application. We asked through our councillor, Ian Grundy, for it to be put off and the council refused.”

Councillor opinion was divided at the meeting but cabinet member Cllr Neil Gulliver, in charge of development, said: “I was a wind farm sceptic but after many visits to muddy fields in East Anglia I am a convert.

“It is going to be a major source of employment and we have to find ways no matter how small of reducing our carbon footprint. I will support this scheme.

“As far as intrusion into the countryside is concerned these are not massive masts and they’ll be camouflaged for eight months and visible from some vantage points for four months of the year. I hope this is the first of many we shall receive.”

Planning officer Sarah Hill Sanders said: “The site is located within the Metropolitan Green Belt where there is a strict presumption against inappropriate development.

“Government guidance does however make it clear local planning authorities should seek to promote and encourage rather than restrict the use of renewable resources.

“There may be special circumstances that would warrant an exception to green belt policy.”

Mr Barnes said: “What special circumstances are there? It is green belt and people are living nearby. We feel the council has made a wrong decision that could expose so many other green belt sites to applications as well.

“We are approaching the borough chief executive and if he does not recall the application we are prepared to club together to raise the £20,000 a judicial review could cost. It is a violation of the greenbelt principle.”

The owners of the site welcomed the decision and defended the positive impact it would have on the environment.

Father and son Tony and Matthew Collings bought the land – roughly 20 acres – near the Old Kings Head pub on the main Stock Road from a retiring farmer two years ago.

It has fulfilled a lifelong dream of Matthew, 38, from Billericay, to go green.

The “energy field” is only part of his plan for the land which will have a cash-crop of hay around the two banks of panels and the two 80ft turbines.

The turbines have to be 500ft from any building or hedgerow and 160ft apart so the pair hope they will be deep enough into the field to be out of sight of the main road and blocked out by tree leaves for most of the year.

But Matthew has greener plans and is talking to the Forestry Commission about devoting his further field of about eight acres to growing a Royal Diamond Jubilee Wood.

Tony Collings, 67, who lives in West Hanningfield and is the third generation proprietor of T E Collings Storage Ltd of Laindon, said: “Some of our neighbours have not welcomed this scheme but we have maintained good relations with them and I truly believe once the turbines are in place they will not notice a great deal of difference.

“I believe wind turbines are both attractive and practical. The lattice work design which itself can be painted green makes them even less obtrusive.

“We have to do something about energy in this country as fossil fuels run out. We are very far behind Europe. I was in the south of Spain near Cadiz recently, and there are tens of thousands of them supplying 42 per cent of the country’s needs.

Matthew added: “Ours is a commercial venture – all the power goes into the grid for which we get 42p a kilowatt. It will never make us rich.”

Tony said: “This project is really a legacy for my grandchildren when it looks like energy costs in the future could be very high – up as much as 60 per cent in the next ten years.”

Source:  Billericay Gazette, www.thisistotalessex.co.uk 22 February 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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