Controversial plans to build a wind turbine the height of a 25-storey building in an area of outstanding natural beauty look set to be approved, despite the objections of five parish councils and numerous community groups.
The 78 metre high turbine would be erected in land west of Chilton Street in Clare, with the plans recommended for approval by St Edmundsbury Council’s development control committee meeting at today’s (Thursday, April 4) 10am meeting.
BT chose not to build a wind farm in the town due to a lack of wind.
Clare, Stoke by Clare, Hundon, Ashen and Kedington parish councils have all opposed the turbine, along with English heritage, the Colne-Stour Countryside Association, Dedham Vale area of natural beauty (AONB) and Stour Valley Project, the Suffolk Preservation Society and the Stop Turbines Over Clare action group.
There have also been 170 letters of objection for residents of Clare, Stoke by Clare, Hundon, Poslingford, Cavendish, Wixoe, Ashen, Baythorne End, Pentlow, Lamarsh, Sudbury, Radwinter, Barnardiston and Little Yeldham.
Despite such strong opposition, St Edmundsbury Council planning officer has recommended that the development control committee approve the plans.
Concerns raised relate to noise levels and how it will have an adverse impact on the landscape, though James Sills, who will erect the turbine, wrote to nearby resident to assuage their worries and remind them of the need for renewable energy sources.
He said it will provide electricity for 319 homes and will reduce the carbon footprint of his farm by 19 per cent.
Phone giant BT planned to erect six turbines in Clare, then dropped their plans to three before ditching them altogether after an 18 month survey showed the wind levels did not make it financially viable.
However, Mr Sills said a single medium-scale turbine ‘is of a very different nature and hence has dramatically different costs’.
Iona Parker, from Stop Wind Turbines Over Clare which successfully opposed BT’s planned wind farm, explained their opposition.
“From my view the planning officer’s report is very, very limited, is very short and really hasn’t addressed any of the arguments that we have raised at all,” she said.
“BT actually measured the wind, rather than relying on wind atlases and databases, and after 20 months reached the conclusion that there simply wasn’t enough wind at the site to make it economically viable.
“This applicant hasn’t measured the wind at all – they’re relying on a database that has a disclaimer saying it shouldn’t be used as it’s out of date.”
”Nationally wind turbines are about 25 per cent effective, but that’s including ones on the coast of Scotland where there’s a lot of wind, so we think this produce about a third of what they say it will.”
”You have to balance the benefits versus the harm, and in this case the benefit is very small but the harm is substantial.
“This is a structure that will be the size of a 25 storey building being put in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
“We feel this part of Suffolk is a historic area with lots of listed buildings and is very much on the tourist trail.
“You have to chooses the best place to have wind turbines and we feel this part of Suffolk is not the right place for them.”
Ms Parker added that Mr Sills stands to make £200,000 a year in Government subsidy from the turbine based on his projected electricity figures.
The Dedham Vale ANOB and Stour Valley Project said: “We consider that this development is detrimental to the landscape character of the area.”
Kedington Parish Council said ‘this site does not make sense’.
They detailed that the turbine would ‘only be producing around ten per cent of its potential for 85 per cent of the time’, making it ‘between 2.55 and 4.25 per cent efficient’.
“In any other industry this would be unacceptable and is not good enough to justify this development.”
Stoke by Clare Parish Council said 70 per cent of people responding to a survey on the BT application had opposed turbines in or around the village.
Hundon Parish Council said ‘it is clear that public think the visual intrusion of turbines is unacceptable’.
The recommendation is for planning to be given subject to work starting in three years, being fitted with flash pattern lights to warn aircraft and the noise being lower than 35 decibels at the nearest homes.
Full details would also have to be submitted before construction, including noise details, migration measures would have to be implemented and ‘the turbine would be dismantled and the site returned to its former condition once the need for it no longer exists’.
James Sills wrote to residents explaining the need to tackle climate change.
“It is clear, both at local level and at a global level, that urgent action is required to avoid irreparable damage,” he wrote.
He said the turbine would reduce the carbon footprint of his farm by 19 per cent, and would succeed where BT failed due to the differing costs.
“I very much hope you will welcome the sustainable generation of electricity for 319 homes.”
For all the latest news see today’s (Thursday, April 4) Echo.