Torridge District Council has performed a U-turn over its decision on one of the biggest off-shore wind farms in the world.
Two members of the council even risked breaking the law to speak on the controversial project which has divided the region.
At its full council meeting at Bideford Town Hall last night Councillor Chris Leather put forward a motion not to support the Atlantic Array wind farm – despite the council’s planning committee raising no objections to the project earlier this month.
The matter was raised at the heated meeting last night where standing orders were suspended to give the councillors a chance to debate the plans.
However, despite standing orders being suspended for the debate, councillors did not allow the public contribution session to be extended.
Nearly 100 people attended the meeting but only five were able to speak during the 15 minutes public contribution session, one of whom did not raise matters to do with the Atlantic Array.
Rosemary Howarth–Booth spoke in favour of the wind farm and highlighted that polls she had read on the effect on the tourism industry would not be substantial.
Members of the public heckled the speaker which led to the chairman of the district council, Councillor Tony Inch, to say: “If I have any more of that I will have you removed.”
Another supporter of the wind farm James Craigie proposed an amendment to Mr Leather’s motion supporting the wind farm.
He said: “We need energy here because so much of it is produced elsewhere.”
Anti-Array campaigner Joanne Bell also spoke and said: “I was appalled at what happened at the previous plans meeting. I was astonished at some of the mis-information coming from some of the councillors.”
Derek Green, the manager of Lundy Island, also objected. He said: “Lundy is the jewel in Devon’s crown, we all have a duty to protect Lundy for future generations.
“The Array would be a nail in the coffin for Lundy.”
The council then debated the matter for an hour and a half with Councillor Phil Pennington and Councillor Bob Hicks joining in despite being land owners on the proposed route for the wind farm’s on shore cabling route.
Mr Hicks had not declared an interest but Mr Pennington did declare one.
Both councillors made clear they understood by taking part in the debate they were risking breaking law but said representing views of the people was more important in this instance.
Mr Pennington said: “If someone wishes to drag me to the magistrates’ court so be it, this is democracy at work.”
Each councillor had three minutes to speak.
Councillor Margaret Brown seconded Mr Leather’s motion.
Several councillors spoke against the wind farm including Councillor Kathy Murdoch who said: “We have been told we should be proud to have one of the biggest wind farms coming here but I’m much prouder to be standing here doing everything I can to stop it.”
The council voted not to support the proposed development of the Atlantic Array for the benefit of the area and people – an amended motion proposed by Councillor Andy Boyd.
The decision was met with cheers from members of the public.
Mr Leather said after the meeting: “We got there in the end, now we are on the same page as North Devon Council.”