May 8, 2012

Levington: Row between village and executive couple over wind turbines

By Richard Cornwell, East Anglian Daily Times, 8 May 2012

Villagers are furious today over proposals by a well-known couple to build unsightly wind turbines in a beautiful riverside valley at their country home.

Dame Marjorie Scardino, the chief executive of Pearson PLC, and her Pulitzer prize-winning journalist husband Albert, want to put the two turbines in place at Levington Hall to generate green electricity.

Last night Mr Scardino said they understood villagers’ worries and would attempt to mitigate the impact of the turbines through an extensive programme of reforestation, hedge planting and coppice woodland.

But residents have branded the plan as “environmental vandalism” – and say the structures, 21 metres and 26m high, will scar the area.

It is the second time the proposal has been put forward. The first was part of a project with OOCL and was withdrawn last year after a public meeting voted unanimously against it.

Retired lawyer Colin Overbury, 81, of Bridge Road, Levington, said: “This would be environmental vandalism and will dominate the whole Levington valley.

“This area is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and planning policy clearly states that AONBs should be protected except when there are exceptions in the public interest – this is not in the public interest as the only people it will benefit are the Scardinos.”

Neighbour Caroline Harris said the site suggested for the turbines was an exposed, sloping area which could be seen not only by people from their homes but also by walkers enjoying the AONB.

“We find it immensely difficult to see how somebody could seemingly not care a jot about their neighbours. It is quite staggering. We feel there are other ways of making the estate carbon neutral and these should be looked at instead,” she said.

Mr Scardino said “We recognise that the erection of small wind turbines can cause strong reactions.

“We do not want to make our neighbours unhappy.

“As has been the case with every aspect of our work, we will attempt to mitigate the impact on them as much as possible through our extensive programme of reforestation, hedge planting and coppice woodland development.

“Suffolk Coastal District Council has surveyed the site and reported that the background noise level from the nearby A14 and the Felixstowe freight rail line is substantially higher than the noise from this model turbine, according to the manufacturer.

“If they are wrong and the machines are audible by residential neighbours, the machines will be decommissioned. In the meantime, as our plantings mature, they should help to limit the noise from this transportation corridor by lifting sound above ground level.”

Dame Marjorie Scardino, 65, is said to be the highest paid woman director of a FTSE 100 company, earning £9.6 million last year.

She and her husband bought 18th century Levington Hall and its 50-plus acres of grounds six years ago for around £2.5m.

A Suffolk Coastal council spokesman said the application would be decided in two weeks.

“There is still time for people to submit their comments on the proposals and all comments will be considered by councillors before they reach a decision, which of course will take account of national and local planning policies,” he said.

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