May 26, 2012

Village ‘outraged’ by church turbines bid

Western Morning News, 26 May 2012

The Church of England has been accused of “alienating” parishioners after a public meeting rejected “outrageous” plans to build turbines on church land.

About 150 people turned out to oppose a proposal for two 25-metre-high turbines at Chittlehampton, near Umberleigh in North Devon.

The old vicarage is one of three sites where the Diocese of Exeter proposes erecting a total of six turbines in a bid to improve its green credentials. But protesters claim the real motive is to generate profit, after estimates that the move could generate £50,000 a year.

Richard Hopton, whose front door is 180 metres from where the turbines would stand in Chittlehampton, said the plans were “outrageous”.

He added: “I have always been devoted to the Church of England as an institution, but this is appalling behaviour.

“In a time of falling congregations, the church should carefully consider why it’s alienating most of the folk who would be supporting it.

“Whatever the Diocese of Exeter says, this is a money-making scheme, and it seems they plan to railroad it through despite the level of opposition from the community.”

Exeter is one of the first dioceses in the country to be progressing the plans, and many other areas are expected to follow suit under the Church of England scheme.

Mr Hopton, an author and journalist, warned that the plans in Devon were the “thin end of the wedge”, and dozens of other communities could be “scarred” by turbines.

Rose Warren, clerk of Chittlehampton Parish Council, said all 150 people who attended Wednesday night’s meeting voted against the proposal. The council has yet to make an official response, but Ms Warren said: “We had churchgoers there who were unhappy about it. They feel let down by the diocese.”

The remote North Devon communities of Black Torrington and East Anstey have also been earmarked for turbines on Church land. A public meeting will discuss the East Anstey plans on Monday. Black Torrington had a debate two weeks ago.

Black Torrington Parish Council chairman Peter Wright said just one person out of almost 100 was in favour of the plans. “I’m opposed to it. It’s a matter of how and why it’s being done. Nobody was told and I don’t think it’s good for parishioners.”

Penny Mills from the CPRE Devon branch said people were “angry and upset” the diocese had submitted planning applications with no consultation. “The diocese are just jumping on the bandwagon of earning money from the exorbitant feed-in tariffs, levied on all energy payers’ bills including those already in fuel poverty. That the Church should directly contribute to this is appalling.”

Yesterday, a spokesman for the Diocese of Exeter said: “We are keenly aware that people feel they have not been sufficiently consulted, and are genuinely sorry. Our attendance at public meetings in Black Torrington and Chittlehampton has been an attempt to address this.”

“These concerns are being taken very seriously and will be discussed at a meeting chaired by the Bishop of Exeter next week.”

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