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Wind turbine campaigners ‘ecstatic’ after East and West Huntspill plans are rejected

Campaigners fighting against plans for nine huge wind turbines on the Somerset levels were ‘ecstatic’ yesterday after councillors overturned their planning officers’ recommendations and threw out the schemes.

But the residents of the villages around Huntspill said they were already preparing for a major fundraising drive to fight expected appeals by the energy firms who wanted to erect the 120m high turbines.

Stroud-based Ecotricity applied to erect four turbines at West Huntspill, while EDF Energy wanted to install five turbines at East Huntspill, the villages close to the M5 near Bridgwater.

Planning officials at Sedgemoor district council had recommended both schemes should be given permission, but in the face of a major anti-turbine campaign by residents in the area, councillors turned down both schemes by a nine-votes-to-four margin.

Residents formed a ‘No Huntspill Windfarms’ campaign group and fought the plans, claiming the wind turbines would ruin the scenery and be imposing on the flat landscape of the levels. They also claimed the turbines would harm wildlife in the area, and be too intrusive for local residents living less than a mile away.

Julie Trott, from the campaign group, said everyone was ‘delighted’ with the result. “We’re ecstatic. It’s a double victory because the recommendation was for permission from the council officers so we all went along to the meeting fearing the worst,” she said.

“It couldn’t have gone any better, and it was good that the councillors all seemed to understand the impact these wind turbines would have on the entire area, and just how imposing they would be.

“They talked a lot about the site visit that happened around six weeks ago, when they toured the area and went a long way away to see how the turbines would be seen from right across the Somerset Levels. It’s very flat around here, it’s not like the places wind turbines traditionally are placed, in hilly areas where they are often obscured by the hills.

“We’re not sure whether EDF will appeal, but we’re pretty sure Ecotricity will appeal, so there’s no doubt we will be fundraising to fight that appeal as well,” she added.

Ecotricity appealed against the refusal of councillors in the Stroud district to give permission for a similar scheme further up the M5 in the Severn Vale near Berkeley, and that appeal has still not been decided.

A spokesman for the firm said it was ‘disappointed’ with the decision of councillors in Somerset yesterday, but it believed it would have a strong case at an appeal.

“After carrying out extensive assessments, analysing potential impacts on the landscape, ecology and ornithology, we are still confident the site is a highly appropriate one to harness the power of the wind and help fight against climate change,” it said.