Street pastors have been drafted in to help keep the peace during a public debate on wind energy amid concerns that emotions might boil over into violence.
The meeting in North Devon had originally been scheduled to take place last month but was postponed after an alleged assault at another event on wind turbines in Barnstaple.
It is now being held at Bideford Methodist Church on Friday, November 22, with organisers saying they had taken “steps to reduce the chances of emotions boiling over”.
James Craigie, corrfrom the Northern Devon Sustainable Energy community interest company which is staging the debate, said: “I have been in contact with several people who are street pastors who are coming along to keep things calm.
“We have also increased the amount people have to pay to enter in the hope it will discourage those likely to come along just to cause issues.”
The meeting has been called to discuss the proposals for five, 107-metre turbines, near Meddon, in Torridge, which would offer a £50,000 community fund. Initial plans for 126-metre turbines, taller than St Paul’s Cathedral, were scaled back after fierce local opposition.
“We’re hoping to get some facts into the debate and demystify what is obviously a fairly contentious issue because it has a massive, potential economic benefit but also has consequences,” Mr Craigie added.
“People disagree about what those benefits might be and the consequences but it’s about trying to get closer to the truth. Both sides have to be prepared to listen to each other in order for progress to be made.”
The meeting is being chaired by David Brenton, corrleader of the Labour group on Torridge District Council.
Speakers include Peter Crone, consultant and originator of the Atlantic Array Wind Farm concept, and Dr Philip Bratby, who has argued against the economic viability of wind in numerous forums and at many planning inquiries. names corr
Each side of the debate will present their case before it will be opened up for questions from the audience.
“We need an open and fair debate on the benefits and potential costs,” Coun Brenton said, “particularly as this involves Torridge District’s greatest natural resources, our wind and our landscape.”
The first meeting was delayed after an alleged assault in August during a Slay the Array meeting over the huge turbines planned in the Bristol Channel.
A 59-year-old Barnstaple man, a supporter of the plans, complained he had been ejected from the meeting and then punched and kicked causing bruising to his leg and ribs.
Devon and Cornwall Police said it had carried out a thorough investigation but that no arrests had been made. No further action is being taken.
Entry to next Friday’s meeting, which starts at 8pm, costs £3 which will be donated to tackle fuel poverty locally.