The future of energy certainly is a hotly-contested topic.
None more so than in the Colne Valley, where a huge debate has been running for over a year on the construction of three 99.5 metre high wind turbines high above the village by Cupwith Reservoir on Slaithwaite moor.
Council planners are still to rule on whether to allow the contentious site application, which will cost £10 million to fund if the group in favour of it, the Valley Wind Co-operative, is successful.
The organisation believes that the scheme, which they hope will be mainly funded through community shares, will allow them to produce 18 million kWh of renewable electricity for up to 4,700 homes each year and will generate £150,000 minimum per year for a community fund.
They also believe the scheme would reduce C02 emissions by the equivalent of 5.8% of that produced by the geographical Colne Valley area.
However, the scheme has attracted strong opposition from another group, Slaithwaite Moor Opposes Giant Industrial Turbines (SMOGIT).
They say that the turbines will harm the landscape and natural environment and say that only 0.9% of emissions will be saved in the wider Colne Valley parliamentary constituency.
A total of 95 supported documents and 18 consultations have been submitted as part of the proposal, which was submitted to planning last November.
Some independent assessments on the environmental, landscape, ornithology and residential impact ruled that the scheme will have ‘no significant’ negative impacts and would have an ‘overall positive benefit’ to the valley.
However, others commissioned for the council, and national bodies such as Natural England and the Peak District Park, have advised against granting planning permission, citing that not enough information is known about the plans to allow them to make a decision on the development’s effects or that it would negatively impact on the landscape.
Here we’ve given the two main groups of campaigners the chance to put forward their cases for the scheme side by side in an extended focus for the first time.
Steve Slator is chair of the board of nine directors of the Valley Wind Cooperative; a group made up of eight residents and one representative of Energy4All, the umbrella not-for-profit co-op who says that it will keep ‘much of the benefit of the project with the local community and small investors’.
He said: “Our scheme has been a long time in the planning and is not a decision that we have taken lightly. It’s one that has involved a huge amount of work for the directors and from independent specialist and technical assessors who have considered everything including archaeology, species’ habitats, noise, climate change, hydrology and landscape.
“We believe that this project could benefit the local community and economy.
“As our planning application states, we’ve budgeted for £150,000 to go each year to a local Community Fund. This relates to the £25,000 per megawatt (MW) of installed capacity as agreed between Valley Wind Co-op and the Community Generation Fund, who have helped us with planning application costs.
“This is intended to be distributed to local projects, some of which may have a renewable energy or conservation leaning, although final decisions will only be made, if the project goes ahead, when the new co-op shareholders have had their say.
“Being a co-op is also important because every member gets not only a say but a share in profits and we plan to give priority to invest to local people
“The renewable electricity produced is forecast to average the equivalent of 100% of Marsden and Slaithwaite’s domestic electricity demand and most of it should normally feed into the local Colne Valley grid.
“This project could make us a little bit more energy self-sufficient and even take some power away from the big six energy companies in the process.
“We know that the site is close to ecologically protected areas (South Pennine Moors SPA and SAC). However, it is outside them and extensive studies and surveys done by the independent assessors concluded that the development won’t have a significant effect on the valued habitats or species or an adverse impact on the protected areas.
“Some may disagree, but in our view wind turbines are elegant and even attractive and could bring more visitors to the area.
“We think that the benefits of the project are clear and the windfarm could become a significant and, most importantly, sustainable community asset.”
The against campaign: SMOGIT
Robert Bamforth is one of a group of residents who have come together to oppose the turbines,
He said: “We understand and are not challenging the need for green energy or providing spin-off cash benefits to support community good causes.
“However, we believe that in this case those benefits are heavily outweighed by the very substantial harm this project will cause to the internationally important environment, Special Protection Areas and much loved landscape of the South Pennine Moors.
“Many highly respected organisations, including the Peak District National Park Authority, National Trust, RSPB, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Natural England, share that view and have also objected to the scheme.
“It’s not just about the environment though. We are also very concerned about the adverse impact on local residents, tourism and the many recreational opportunities that the open Pennine moorland offers to millions of people in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.
Our view is that large commercial scale turbines, such as those proposed for Slaithwaite Moor, must be located in the most suitable places, We are adamant that Slaithwaite Moor is not one of those places.
Wind turbines can be sited almost anywhere in the country, but the Pennine Moorlands can’t and we think that their impact on residents will stretch beyond the valley to affect those who live within one hour’s drive of the site.
“All the science tells us that in practical terms wind energy will only contribute a relatively small amount to reversing climate change. Professor Bob Cywinski, Dean of the Graduate School at Huddersfield University said that the three proposed turbines at Slaithwaite Moor will save just 0.9% of the Colne Valley Parliamentary Constituency’s total CO2 emissions per annum (0.001% of the UK’s CO2 emissions).
“The question is whether it is worth causing very serious harm to such a rare, precious and protected natural environment as Slaithwaite Moor, to achieve such a modest carbon reduction. We say it isn’t.
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