Penny Mills, the chairman of the Torridge branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: "The robust arguments and searching questions at the public meetings were certainly neither abusive nor bullying, just to the point. "It is a shame that this has been said about parishioners who don't want beautiful rural Devon destroyed with this industrialisation and have a right to expect a more straightforward and transparent approach by their church. "But there is great relief today from hundreds of people in North Devon that the applications have been withdrawn and they are very grateful for that."
The Diocese of Exeter has announced it will be withdrawing its plans to erect six wind turbines at three different locations in North Devon.
The decision comes less than a month after the applications were submitted to both North Devon Council and Torridge District Council for two turbines to be erected at East Anstey, Chittlehampton and Black Torrington.
But the Bishop of Exeter the Right Reverend Michael Langrish has condemned the behaviour of those against the proposals and confirmed the diocese is still committed to reducing its carbon footprint.
Since the plans came to light at the end of April hundreds of people have objected and highlighted the lack of consultation given on the matter.
But representatives of the diocese have defended the decision at public meetings in North Devon claiming the turbines would help the diocese reduce its carbon footprint by 2020 and then further by 2050.
In a pastoral letter sent to the three parishes on Sunday the bishop said the decision to withdraw the three applications had been taken to protect clergy and diocese representatives who had been subjected to hostility and abuse.
He said: “We have listened to concerns where they were reasonably expressed, reflected and prayed over them, and clearly see that given the hostility, now is not the time to move ahead with our plans.
“I must add I have been aggrieved by the way some of those most opposed to our proposals have resorted to abusive and bullying tactics.
“I and many of my colleagues have received very unpleasant letters and those who have attended public meetings in a genuine effort to explain the thinking behind our proposals have been shouted down and called liars.
“It grieves me too the scale of aggression and hostility generated from a small number of people was so far out of step with the small scale of what we proposed.
The bishop told the Journal on Monday: “The turbines were part of a range of other measures which are already in use such as having solar panels on roofs.
“We will continue to have conversations with the local communities to see what they feel is most appropriate.
“I am disappointed we have had to withdraw the applications but they were small projects and that is how they will remain to be seen, it will not affect our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.”
Richard Hopton, who lives 180 metres away from where the turbines would have been erected in Chittlehampton, said: “I am thrilled, the church should be congratulated.
“One can never condone abuse but I attended two meetings and the atmosphere was hostile but it wasn’t personal. Poor little church not being treated well. It was very shabbily handled. The weasel words were there; this diocese had been chosen to conduct this pilot scheme for the whole of the country and we didn’t want it.”
Penny Mills, the chairman of the Torridge branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “The robust arguments and searching questions at the public meetings were certainly neither abusive nor bullying, just to the point.
“It is a shame that this has been said about parishioners who don’t want beautiful rural Devon destroyed with this industrialisation and have a right to expect a more straightforward and transparent approach by their church.
“But there is great relief today from hundreds of people in North Devon that the applications have been withdrawn and they are very grateful for that.”
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