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Inquiry after second wind turbine topples in Westcountry

Safety concerns have been raised over wind turbines and a fresh investigation has now been launched after a second tower was said to have been toppled during high winds in Cornwall.

Investigations continued into how a 111ft (34m) turbine crashed to the ground on farm land in Bradworthy, in Devon, less than three years after it was commissioned.

Rumours circulated around the local community that the East Ash Farm equipment had been sabotaged by protesters amid claims by a parish councillor that bolts were missing from the structure.

However, no evidence of this has been confirmed.

In North Cornwall, a smaller 60ft (18m) tower also sited on a farm was said to be “lying crumpled on the ground”, prompting the manufacturers to launch a separate inquiry into the causes.

In the House of Commons yesterday, Energy Secretary Ed Davey warned wind farm operators to make sure their equipment is safe.

In response to a question, Mr Davey said: “Clearly, people who develop and run and maintain wind farms, as with any sort of industrial installation, have to make sure that they are fit and aren’t a danger to the public.

“Otherwise various authorities will come down on them and they will find themselves liable.”

The turbine at East Ash Farm, collapsed in the early hours of Sunday and both the installers of the turbine Dulas Ltd and the Health and Safety Executive have confirmed investigations are under way.

Margaret Coles, spokesman for Bradworthy parish council, fuelled speculation by claiming the turbine’s bolts had “gone”.

Merlin Hyman, chief executive of Regen South West, said any failure was “a matter for concern”.

“The industry has got a good safety record but they need to react in the right way, learn lessons and offer free checks on turbines,” he added.

It has now emerged that one of two 11kW Gaia turbines installed at Winsdon Farm North Petherwin – the family farm of Liberal Democrat Cornwall Councillor Adam Paynter – was badly damaged during the recent bad weather.

Local resident, Hilary Vincent, said the turbine was blown down on Wednesday afternoon.

“I had been watching it for a few days as the blades were stationery – by 3pm it was not visible and is lying crumpled on the ground,” she added.

A spokesman for Gaia-Wind confirmed the collapse, adding: “There has been an incident where a turbine tower has been damaged.

“No other injury or damage is involved and we are investigating the cause. The turbine is on private, rural property – it is a high quality, well-installed turbine with an outstanding track record for safety and reliability.”

Mr Paynter was unavailable for comment yesterday.