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Villagers fight back in siege of the renewables  

Credit:  By Pilita Clark, Environment Correspondent | October 4, 2013 | www.ft.com ~~

There were mutters of alarm in the pretty Nottinghamshire village of Orston when news of a plan to build a 74m-high wind turbine not far from the local cricket ground emerged in April.

Alarm turned to dismay in July, when another turbine the same size was proposed across the hedgerow-lined road, followed by a move in August to put up a 50,700-panel solar farm a few hundred metres away.

But when September brought news that a Surrey company wanted to put in an anaerobic digestion bio-gas plant only a brief stroll away, it was a green step too far for Orston, population 450.

“We feel encircled,” said David Standard, a local resident. “I don’t think there’s a better example of a village under siege from renewables.”

There may be soon. Subsidies launched to help the UK meet EU-wide renewable energy targets are already spurring an unprecedented surge in green energy plants, which generated 11 per cent of the UK’s electricity last year, up from 4 per cent in 2005.

The prospect of even more was underlined last week when the world’s leading authority on global warming, the UN’s Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change, said if fossil fuels continued to be burned at current rates, it could be a matter of decades before temperatures rose to potentially risky levels. But the impact of green power policies is also causing growing concern, and not just because of their contribution to the soaring household energy bills Labour leader Ed Miliband last week vowed to freeze.

As the people of Orston are discovering, living with renewable energy can be challenging. Mr Standard is part of a pressure group villagers have formed to fight what they say is a “bombardment” of greenery.

“You do feel a bit like King Canute, trying to push the sea back,” said David Hayle, as the group met over coffee on Thursday in the Durham Ox, Orston’s only pub.

The residents, who have kept the village hall busy with public meetings to discuss the proposed projects, say they do not doubt climate change is real. But they do mind how it is tackled, especially if subsidies lure what they call “industrial-scale” energy projects that enrich local landowners while disadvantaging residents. “If these wind turbines were powering this village, it would be completely different,” said Mr Hayle.

The group is not worried about the proposed solar farm, which is not so visible, but the wind turbines and the anaerobic digester are another matter.

The company behind one turbine, Hallmark Power, has told Rushcliffe borough council in a planning application that it thinks “the visual effects on most of Orston would be slight/negligible”.

Locals are not convinced, and have sent a volley of objections to the council. They say the turbines will blight the landscape and tower over their 12th-century church.

A village meeting on Wednesday produced an equally emphatic vote against the anaerobic digester, a kind of giant fermentation plant whose proponent, Longhedge Renewables of Surrey, wants to convert tonnes of specially grown crops, such as maize and rye grass, into biogas that can be fed into the national gas grid.

Longhedge has done its best to persuade residents the project will not stink, even organising a bus outing to a similar plant about an hour’s drive away.

“You could still smell it,” said retired businessman David Sims. He added that he was concerned about traffic congestion caused by tractors and trucks bringing crops to the plant.

Philipp Lukas, Longhedge director, said he understood the villagers’ concerns.

“People don’t like change and people are very, very attached to the countryside and its beauty but they completely forget their view is not their view; it’s the farmer’s field,” he said.

A council decision on all but the wind turbines is still some time away, leaving the residents of Orston waiting to see what sort of development might be lurking around the corner for them next.

“We’re just waiting for fracking, then it will be a full house,” said Mr Sims.

Source:  By Pilita Clark, Environment Correspondent | October 4, 2013 | www.ft.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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