A rural community could become a test case for unpopular wind farms after it unanimously rejected a cash offer designed to “sweeten” plans for a 200ft (61m) turbine near their homes.
A group of ten residents in North Devon has roundly rejected the £5,670 incentive from developers One Power Wind Renewables, describing the cash lure as a “bribe”.
The case could set a precedent for future wind projects and test the Government’s recent moves to hand more power to communities to block schemes.
Any one of the nine affected householders could have broken ranks and pocketed the entire fund, which was twice the recommended level, but in a remarkable show of solidarity they have remained united and defiantly issued a collective veto to the proposals.
The group now wants the developer to abandon the plans for a site near Barnstaple, and for the council to follow the Coalition’s recently-issued edict to heed local opposition and reject the application.
Honeywell Turbine Action Group (HTAG) chairman Martin Wright, who lives at Bowden Farm within 1km of the planned turbine, said he had been delighted at the unity.
“It was a very divisive offer and if one person had said yes they could have got the lot,” he added. “But it was something they all suggested – I was delighted and a little surprised because, well, people are people and money is money.”
Earlier plans for a 260ft (79m) turbine at Honeywell Farm, Muddiford, were turned down last year by the planning committee at North Devon Council.
In refusing the 800kW electricity generating scheme, it called the tower an “incongruous manmade feature”, out of scale with and failing to preserve or enhance the natural beauty of the unspoilt landscape.
Councillors also said they felt there would be “major adverse impact” on the residential amenities of people in nearby dwellings. The developer appealed but a planning inspector upheld the local authority decision, which had also been opposed by Marwood parish council.
Last month One Power submitted a fresh application for the smaller machine, though with a larger blade diameter. The new turbine has also been rated to generate less power, at 500kW, thereby dropping into a separate band of the Feed-in-Tariff, and collecting double the payment for supplying the National Grid.
Experts in wind energy generation have calculated that the turbine could earn £567,000 per year, making the offer to villagers, though generous by the Government’s bench mark, equivalent to 1% of the project’s income.
Phillip Bratby, a retired physicist and vice chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in north Devon, said under the new guidelines, the strength of feeling of the local community is a clear indication to the developer that he should withdraw the application.
“The Secretary of State also stated that the Government’s energy goals should not be used to justify the wrong development in the wrong location, which this clearly is.”
North Devon Liberal Democrat MP Nick Harvey said the opposition was a “very interesting example of community solidarity”. “I will certainly be drawing it to the attention of the Department for Energy and Climate Change, in light of recent changes to give communities a greater say in wind farm siting,” he added.
One Power were unavailable for comment.
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