A humble Bishop of Exeter has promised to repair relations with rural communities after admitting that plans for wind turbines had been “naive.”
Speaking after the proposals for a series of 25-metre turbines were withdrawn, the Right Reverend Michael Langrish said there was no appetite to resubmit, although he refused to completely rule it out in the future.
The influential Church leader, whose letter of apology was read out at three North Devon parishes at the weekend, also suggested that the “hostile” backlash may have been provoked because the Church was viewed as a “soft touch.”
“We made the mistake of not consulting,” Bishop Michael told the Western Morning News.
“We were all taken by surprise at the ferocity of the attack on a relatively small scale project.”
The project in question would have seen two 25-metre tall wind turbines in three North Devon communities, Chittlehampton, Black Torrington and East Anstey.
In total, it is estimated that the plans would have generated a potential income of £50,000 a year. However, instead of being praised for its commitment to green energy sources, the Diocese found itself at the centre of a storm.
Bishop Michael said a lesson had been learned and the diocese was now keen to build bridges.
He said informal invitations to talk about renewable energy had been received by members of the community in Black Torrington and Chittlehampton.
These would be accepted, said the Bishop.
“There was an honest mistake made about not going to parishes and talking about options,” he said.
On being pressed to say whether the turbine project was irrevocably consigned to the dustbin, Bishop Michael said: “I would not prejudice the outcome of local conversations.
“We have withdrawn the applications, we have no plans to resubmit and we are going to go on talking to the local community.”
He added: “I have never said never.”
Bishop Michael defended the team driving the proposals, saying they had acted with “complete integrity.”
“There is no hidden agenda about resubmission.
“What the agenda is, is to have that (local) conversation.
“Perhaps it was naive (in the first place), but I have seen small turbines like this going up with no comment, I have seen windfarms go ahead with a more measured response.
“I don’t think anyone could have predicted such a violent and hostile reaction to such a modest proposal.”
He has also speculated that some anti-wind turbine campaigners from outside the villages in question may have homed in on the development because of the potential to gain a high profile win.
He said this might be along the lines of action taken by the anti-capitalist Occupy movement who pitched tents on Exeter Cathedral Green last year.
“A firm might be more hard-edged and hard-nosed, but I think the Church would be seen as more of a soft touch.”
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