The first speaker on Wednesday, day two of the reconvened Silton Wind Turbine inquiry at Sturminster Newton’s Exchange was North Dorset MP Robert Walter, who told inspector Neil Pope that he did not generally involve himself in local planning matters.
However, the number of letters, emails and telephone calls he had received from constituents opposing Ecotricity’s planned erection of four giant turbines on agricultural land at Silton, added to those received from objectors in nearby areas of neighbouring Somerset Wiltshire had caused him to make an exception, he said.
North Dorset was not a region of NIMBYs, he said. There were several high tech, cutting edge projects in which local business and local people had become involved, including the large-scale anaerobic digester at BV Dairy at Shaftesbury, various smaller alternative energy schemes at schools and businesses, and an innovative broadband service “that is giving BT a run for its money.”
Asked by Ecotricity’s barrister David Hardy (who called the MP “minister” throughout, and was not contradicted) what contribution these schemes made in comparison with that expected by the turbines, Mr Walter agreed he did not know.
But the elected Conservative member of Parliament repeated the statistic that the turbines were expected to produce their optimum power for less than 1 per cent of the time in this, one of the least windy sites in the UK.
He was followed on the stand by Milton on Stour resident Richard Howman, who started his evidence by referring to the Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole Renewable Energy Strategy, a document that has been referred to earlier in the inquiry.
He had discovered that the paper, first published in 2005 and recently updated, was a Bournemouth University project which had a small sample size, and did not claim to be representative of either the situation in nor the views of people in the rural county.
His evidence, as it has been at earlier North Dorset District Council planning meetings, concentrated on the potential hazards to aviation at the site, which is on a low flying training route. Questions to RNAS Yeovilton, whose planes overfly the vale on training exercises, had resulted in three contradictory answers, he said.
No attempt had been made either by Ecotricity or the local planning authority to explore the aviation situation, which Mr Howman described as an accident waiting to happen.
Ecotricity’s cultural heritage expert Dr Simon Collcutt, who had given his evidence at the end of the first day, returned to the stand to be cross examined by NDCC’s counsel Peter Wadsley.
Their 75 minute session was spent arguing whether the surrounding landscape was included in the setting of a listed building, and whether adverse effects on the setting of a Grade I listed building (Silton Church in this instance) was more important than it would be on the setting of a less important building.
Dr Collcutt maintained that although he thought the construction of the wind farm (or park as it is now being called) would have an adverse effect on the church and other important historic buildings in Silton, he did not think that the extent of the harm (which he categorised as moderate) would be severe enough to warrant its being included in any Environmental Impact Assessment.
By Gay Pirrie-Weir
For more on the Silton Wind Turbine inquiry, see tomorrow’s Blackmore Vale Magazine and This is Dorset.
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