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Turbine approved despite protests

Heavily disputed plans for a wind turbine in Clare were passed despite fears being raised it could set a precedent for more in the area.

St Edmundsbury Council’s development control committee spent almost two hours hearing about the application at a meeting on Thursday before following planning officer Gemma Pannell’s recommendation and approving the turbine. Nine councillors voted for the proposals and four against them.

Plans for the 78-metre-high turbine – the height of a 25-storey building – at Maple Hill, near Chilton Street, were opposed by a long line of organisations, including Clare Town Council and Stoke by Clare parish council.

English Heritage, the Colne-Stour Countryside Association, Suffolk Preservation Society and the Stop Turbines Over Clare (STOC) action group were also among those calling for the introduction of a turbine to be refused.

But councillors chose to ignore those concerns, and the 170 objection letters received, and vote through the plans.

Applicant James Sills said the wind turbine would provide power for 319 homes, though Iona Parker, from STOC, argued it would only power 125 homes.

“A renewable energy project that does more harm than good is not a sustainable development and under planning policy should be refused,” she said.

“The benefit is some electricity being generated resulting in some CO2 savings, but this area is in the bottom five per cent of places for generating wind in the UK so the benefit is miniscule compared to the harm that would be caused.

“The introduction of a vertical structure atop a hill in an area as unspoilt as this will cause irreparable damage to the landscape.”

Concerns were also raised about the method by which Mr Sills estimated how much power would be generated, as he based his figures on online data rather than data collected at the site.

Last year BT dropped plans for three turbines in Clare after their research showed there was not enough wind to make it financially viable.

But Mr Sills said in a letter to residents that putting up one wind turbine was entirely different to three, thus making his viable.

Margaret Golding of Clare Town Council said she was worried about the number of lorries that would be going through the town as construction traffic, while fears were voiced that the decision to build the turbine could result in more cropping up.

“This may be the precursor for others to go ahead if we approve this,” said Peter Stevens, representing Cavendish.

Mrs Pannell assured members the door to more turbines would not be opened and pointed out the cables to connect the turbine to the grid would run underground.

Speaking after the vote to push through the plans, Iona Parker said she feared the consequences of the decision.

“It doesn’t bode well for future applications and setting a precedent is a huge worry as ones on the scale of the one at Brinkley (Wadlow) could now be brought forward,” she said.