Sir James Dyson has been drawn into a row over plans to build Britain’s biggest onshore wind turbines on his land.
The plans have infuriated local people, who say the 500ft machines will damage one of Britain’s most precious landscapes, threaten birds and make the area less attractive to tourists. The billionaire inventor bought 17,000 acres of farmland in Lincolnshire for £150m, through his company Beeswax, in 2012.
The land includes much of the Nocton estate, near Lincoln, which carries an option to build a wind farm. Vattenfall, an energy company owned by the Swedish state, bought the option from the land’s previous owners.
Dyson, who has previously spoken out in support of wind farms, stands to make £500,000 in rental income from the company if the proposal is approved, but has pledged to donate it to the community.
Under new planning laws the final decision on whether the project goes ahead will be taken by Ed Davey, the energy secretary.
Dyson, who invented the bagless vacuum cleaner, has a fortune calculated at £3bn by The Sunday Times Rich List. The investment in the Nocton estate means his children may avoid millions of pounds of inheritance tax, which is not incurred on farmland. Beeswax is understood to have bought other large farms and estates in the UK.
Dyson’s home is at Dodington Park, in Gloucestershire – a £20m, 300-acre Georgian estate with a 51- bedroom home – but he also owns a £3m chateau in Provence and a town house in Chelsea.
Dyson’s own opinion of the Nocton scheme is not known. In the past he has written enthusiastically about renewable energy schemes such as wind farms, tidal barrages and wave power, but has also been critical of Britain’s increasing reliance on foreign firms to provide the investment and expertise to build them.
“A green future without power cuts demands new power-generating technology, but we are too willing to rely on foreign expertise to develop it,” he wrote in 2011.
His spokesman said: “Unfortunately, Vattenfall had signed an irrevocable agreement with the Danish former owner of the land. Beeswax itself wants to farm, not to make money out of wind turbines.”
Asked if that meant Dyson opposed or supported the scheme, the spokesman refused to elaborate. The land around the turbines would still be available for farming.
Vattenfall, which has six wind farms in operation in Britain, with three more under construction, said the Nocton scheme was at an early stage and it planned extensive consultations to minimise the impact before lodging a detailed planning application.
Such schemes are becoming increasingly controversial because of their visual impact, especially in counties such as Lincolnshire, which already has 22 operating wind farms. Last week the Conservatives said they would end subsidies for new onshore farms if they won the 2015 general election.
Vattenfall, prompted by the generous subsidies on offer, has become one of the biggest investors in the British wind industry.
For Britain the benefit is an increase in green energy production, but it also means profits made in places such as Nocton will be used to subsidise energy bills in Sweden.
Vattenfall said the size of the machines would enable them to reach stronger winds, but added: “The height of the machines is up for discussion. If we go ahead we will take comments into account.”
Local residents and conservationists are furious. Lincoln’s 272ft medieval cathedral, which used to be twice as high, thanks to a now lost wooden spire, and was reputedly the world’s tallest building from the 14th-16th century, would be dwarfed by the 25-plus turbines. Such big machines have only been used offshore until now.
Colin Davie, Lincolnshire county council’s executive member for the environment, said: “These machines would have a catastrophic impact on a historic landscape and on heritage assets like the cathedral.
“This location, on the Nocton estate, is just a few miles from Lincoln, on a wide flat expanse of land where machines this size will have a huge visual impact. We completely oppose it.”;
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