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Councillors blocked from saying no to Haverhill turbine

Councillors were prevented from blocking a 78 metre high wind turbine being built on the edge of Haverhill in a decision labelled as ‘an erosion of democracy’.

St Edmundsbury Council’s development control committee met today (Thursday, January 2) to hear farmer James Sills’ plans to build the controversial turbine near Nosterfield End and Ladygate Wood.

Numerous objectors spoke out against the plans, including Helions Bumpstead Parish Council and Haverhill Town Council.

Suffolk County Councillor Julian Flood raised wildlife concerns and questioned whether the energy benefits would be what Mr Sills, who successfully applied to have a turbine erected in Clare despite much opposition, forecast.

Town clerk Will Austin said if permission were given then the energy generated should be measured six months to a year after completion and if not as forecast it should be taken down, and added that the £15,000 offered to the town council should go through official channels so as not to be seen as a ‘sweetener’.

Haverhill deputy mayor Maureen Byrne, also a borough councillor, said she had spoken to ‘hundreds’ of residents concerned about the application.

There were also concerns about the impact on the countryside, noise levels, impacts on air traffic and on the safety of passing cars.

Mr Sills said that a Mail on Sunday survey showed 70 per cent of people favour turbines, including 57 per cent of United Kingdom Independence Party voters, and said it will produce 1.6 million units of electricity per year.

Cllr Peter Stevens, for Cavendish, said: “We erroneously gave permission for the one (turbine) in Clare as we were greenwashed then and I hope we will come to our senses and see that these turbines are not energy driven but subsidy driven.”

It appeared as if the councillors would vote against the turbine, but legal officer Peter Heard advised that to do so would likely see them lose on appeal given that English Heritage, Suffolk Wildlife and other bodies have not raised similar objections.

It was agreed that head of planning Rachael Almond would ensure a risk assessment is put together detailing the legal risks the council would face in voting no.

Wickhambrook Independent Cllr Derek Redhead said: “The longer I sit here the more concerned I become as it seems to be a constant getting rid of democracy.

“How many times have we been challenged through the courts and lost over decisions that we’ve made?

“We’ve never been a council that’s been proved as making a lot of bad decisions.

“This is a constant erosion of democracy.”

Rougham Cllr Sara Mildmay White disagreed and said it was important for the risk assessment to be taken so their decision would not just be overturned on appeal.

A vote was thus taken to ‘be minded for refusal, with seven voting for (to refuse it) and four voting against.

A vote on whether or not to allow planning permission for the turbine will be taken at a subsequent development control committee once the risk assessment is completed.

For a full story and all the latest news see next Thursday’s (January 9) Echo.