November 13, 2012

Dairy farmers win turbine fight

Andy Keeble | North Devon Gazette |

Planning permission has been given for a single wind turbine development at a farm at Cheldon, near Chulmleigh.

North Devon Councillors voted in favour of the development at Mounticombe Farm during an emotionally-charged debate in the council chamber in Barnstaple.

Applicants, dairy farming brothers, Daniel and Marcus Keenor struggled to contain their emotions as they described how they faced the prospect of losing the business, started by their father in the 1940s, due to mounting energy costs.

“The turbine might help to determine the future of farming at Mounticombe Farm,” said Daniel.

“Energy prices could rise by as much as 60 per cent over the coming years. We are very worried about Mounticombe Farm – we do not want our farm to be the next one to go out of business.

“We want to make our own farm sustainable by reducing energy costs.”

Brother Marcus said the farm was not intending to profit from the feed-in tariff, but to meet its energy costs.

“Me and Daniel are two genuine, honest, hard-working men who just want to succeed,” he said.

“If we stay in business and stay profitable then the local economy will surely benefit.”

Bishops Nympton dairy farmer Andrew Verney also spoke in favour of the application. He said that a similar sized turbine at his farm had produced more than 100,000kW in the 10 months it had been in operation.

“It has strengthened our business at a time of increased energy costs,” he said.

But Catherine Lamb from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) told the committee that the area was ‘not suitable for any sort of wind development, including single turbines’.

And resident Denise Love said: “The proposed wind turbine will be visible to us. This is ancient countryside and the turbine will be grossly out of proportion to the environment.

“It will be as tall as a 10-storey building – an almost constantly moving glittering, white metallic erection.”

Proposing that the application be refused on landscape impact grounds, Chulmleigh ward member Councillor Sue Croft, said: “Cheldon is unspoilt, secluded, secretive – a hidden gem.

“Cheldon nestles under the protection of Chulmleigh and if you damage Cheldon you damage Chulmleigh and the surrounding areas.

“Above all else, Chulmleigh has the most stunning views, rolling hills and countryside you would expect from a hilltop town, one of the highest places between Exmoor and Dartmoor.

“Wherever you are standing in Chulmleigh you will see that turbine.”

Cllr Croft also warned that a single turbine could spark a flurry of similar developments in the area.

“Local knowledge says that there are probably 12 applications likely to go in if this one is approved,” she said.

Cllr Richard Edgell said he found the proposal ‘very, very intrusive’. Speaking about the turbine at Bishops Nympton, he said: “It was interesting to hear about the benefits it has brought the applicant but frankly it’s an eyesore – it can be seen for miles and miles in every direction.

“This is becoming epidemic in this area and it’s only going to get worse.”

Cllr Joe Tucker, who then proposed an alternative motion that the application be approved, said it was a ‘finely balanced decision’.

He said: “It’s very sad to see the problems it has caused in Chulmleigh and Chawleigh but we have a duty to keep some of our farmers in business.

“Finding a good reason to turn this down is not easy.”

Cllr Geoff Fowler said: “we all value the North Devon landscape but there are times when we have to make a decision for the sake of our farming community.”

Cllr Frank Biederman said: “If we don’t support our farmers then farms will disappear; does this not affect our countryside?”

Council members voted in favour of the application by eight votes to four, with two abstentions.

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