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Tourism fears blow Moorlands wind turbine plans off track

Controversial plans for a wind turbine in the countryside have been thrown out amid concerns the towering structures would put off visitors.

Councillors were told at a planning meeting on Thursday that tourism was worth £153 million to the Moorlands, kept nearly 3,000 people in work and attracted more than three million visitors a year.

County council tourism experts said visitors helped to sustain the rural economy by spending money in pubs, restaurants and shops.

They warned that the Moorlands could not be advertised as offering ‘stunning views over unspoilt countryside’ if the landscape was ‘turbinised’.

Councillors threw out the application for an 18-metre windfarm on land at Calton Moor, by seven votes to six.

They were told the turbine, which would stand nearly as tall as the Nicholson War Memorial in Leek, would be seen from the main tourist thoroughfare between Ashbourne and Leek and would be just 200 metres from the Peak District boundary.

A report to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council stated: “In these times of financial difficulties we cannot afford to put off any rural tourist.

“It is well documented that areas with turbines are less attractive to this type of tourist.”

Cheddleton Conservative Mike Bowen, pictured, said residents had complained wind turbines would spoil the landscape.

He said: “Why is that the Staffordshire Moorlands is considered ripe for wind farms? We will end up with no tourists and no areas of outstanding beauty.

“I am sorry I cannot support this. It is the thin edge of the wedge. We are getting more and more of these applications.

“One has gone up at Morridge and people are asking ‘who on earth let that one go up there?'”

Tory Councillor Stephen Ellis added: “We are the custodians of one of the most precious landscapes. There are already two at this farm and a third mast will have a creeping effect.

“Why should this applicant be able to destroy the landscape for his own personal gain?”

But some councillors were concerned that the Moorlands fell far short of Government targets in the production of renewable energy and that the district had the highest rate of carbon dioxide emissions in the county.

The application by organic farmer Dennis Salt would have generated a guaranteed surplus, which could be sold back to the National Grid.

Leek Liberal Democrat John Fisher said: “This turbine will help reduce the burning of fossil fuel. Renewables are not the answer to all our energy problems, but they are part of the solution.”

Mr Salt, aged 64, said he was considering an appeal.

He said: “We have tried to keep the impact as low as possible.”