Campaigning communities near Tamworth look to have saved their landscape for future generations from the “damned spot” of a wind farm.
Council planners in Lichfield are set to reject proposals which would have seen two turbines dwarf the spire of St Andrew’s Church in Clifton Campville, one of the tallest steeples in the country.
Villagers found themselves doing battle with a neighbour as they tried to preserve the “idyllic peace and beauty of places” mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.
On one side of Main Road in Haunton, the SNAP posters (Say No And Protest) dominate the verges directly opposite Haunton Manor Farm, the home of Haunton farmer and West Midlands Liberal Democrat MEP Phil Bennion who is ready to lease 250 acres of his land to the German company behind the plans.
“I stand shoulder to shoulder with the neighbours of Liberal-Democrat MEP Phil Bennion in opposing this ill-advised application on his land,” said Mease and Tame Valley district councillor Sue Arnold.
“Putting politics aside, first and foremost as a villager dweller myself and lover of the countryside I want rid of this proposed damned spot on our precious landscape.” The campaign brought together not just the villagers from the outskirts of Haunton through Clifton Campville, Edingale, Harlaston, Whittington, Alrewas, Chilcote, Coton in the Elms to Newton Regis but those from Anglican and Catholic religions.
Mease Valley’s Anglican rector, the Rev Garry Thompson, who looks after the Grade I-listed St Andrew’s Church in Clifton, said: “Aside from the fact that I feel they blight the countryside, I’m not convinced that wind turbines produce adequate amounts of power for the upset they generate.”
Sister Anne Marie Eden, speaking for the Catholic order of St Joseph’s in Haunton, said that people come to the convent for tranquility.
She asked: “What is going to happen if we do not fight for our countryside? We need natural things to look at.”
Now Lichfield District Council’s planning committee, which meets on Monday, is being recommended to throw out the controversial plan to site the two 334ft-high wind turbines at Hogs Hill on land at the back of Main Road, Haunton and adjacent to Twizles Lane.
The proposal was submitted by Osnabruck-based Prowind and its managing director Johannes Busmann.
Council officers want the committee to turn down the application because they believe the giant bladed turbines are an “unacceptable visual intrusion in the local landscape”, harming the character and appearance of the countryside. They are also worried that the proposed 500mw turbines are too big and too close to homes.
The scale of the application would cause “substantial harm” to 18th century farmhouse Dunnimere Farm and four barn conversions, dwarf the 305ft-high St Andrew’s spire and have a detrimental affect on the character and setting of listed buildings and other heritage assets as far afield as the National Memorial Arboretum and Lichfield Cathedral.”
The report goes on to point out that there are six conservation areas within a three-mile radius of the application – all of which owe much of their character and value to the unspoiled rural setting.
A total of 167 letters of objection have been received from individual constituents, citing 41 summary points of objection in a local authority report that stretches to 33 pages.
Speaking to the Herald about the proposals this week, Phillip Bennion said he was “trying to lead by example”.
“Everybody feels strongly about their own landscape, I do,” he said.
“But you have to understand that while it is an area of natural beauty it’s not a national park and we have the wind speeds, we have the open space.
“It seems to me that if my area is not suitable, I can’t see how anywhere is.
“I’ve been aware of the need for renewable energy for the last 20 years and have already been working towards that.
“I grow a biomass crop, which supplies energy to my property. It’s not just business.
“As with any renewable energy development or any development there is an impact to the surrounding area and there’s debate.
“This has heated up since I entered into this agreement and there is debate over where it should and shouldn’t go.
“I do agree the planning committee have a difficult job in making their decision.”