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Critics say support for wind farm skewed by developer campaign

A giant wind farm which could become the biggest clean energy scheme in North Cornwall has received apparently overwhelming support from the public.

More than 70% of more than 150 letters published on Cornwall Council’s website have supported the Good Energy scheme for 11 turbines measuring almost 400ft in height which are planned on farmland nearWeek St Mary.

The public response came after the developer offered a range of community benefits to the scheme and wrote to more than 1,000 local people.

However, campaigners against the plans say the proportion is skewed because the developers asked energy customers and staff to back the project.

Opponents of the wind farm say balance will be restored after a public meeting later this week to rally support.

Staurt Smealing, a member of the campaign group Communities Against Rural Exploitation (CARE) who lives at one of the highest points of the village, said exit polls from public events showed almost no local support for the construction.

CARE said its research in one poll following showed 237 against, 4 in favour and 5 undecided with a second revealing 219 in support, 2 against and 7 unsure.

“A lot of the comments on the site do not list any planning reasons, just say how wonderful the company and renewable energy is,” Mr Smealing added.

“Our exit polls showed people locally are almost unanimously against it we are confident that there will be several hundred coming from local people after our meeting.”

The £30 million scheme – dubbed The Big Field Wind Farm – could eventually form part of the largest renewable energy site west of the Tamar if plans for a 75-acre solar farm also go ahead.

Villagers concerned over the impact on house prices, noise and visual impact are holding a public meeting at Week St Mary Parish Hall on Thursday from 7.30pm.

Good Energy announced a range of community benefits following consultation including a local community fund worth £63,250 a year and local dual fuel and electricity tariffs to all households within 5km of the development.

Good Energy said it had “consulted extensively” with people living close to the site, delivering 700 brochures, carrying out over 300 surveys, organising two public consultation events and writing to more than 1,000 local households to let them know that the planning application had been submitted.

The company said the results of the poll done by CARE was “strongly at odds” with feedback from a year-long public consultation process.

“We believe that this is a really important project for Cornwall and we have been in touch with many of our Cornish customers throughout the various stages of the project,” a spokesman added.

“The positive responses suggest that many Cornish people want to play their part in tackling climate change and building energy security for the UK.”

Cornwall Council’s assistant head of planning Terry Grove White said “Applications are judged against the national and local policy and the planning considerations raised through the consultation rather than by the number of representations.”