The historic streets of a small west Suffolk town face being “steamrollered” by 18 huge lorries transporting a controversial 78-metre wind turbine, residents have claimed.
Plans for transporting the constituent parts of the turbine at Chilton Street, Clare would see at least 18 abnormal loads having to navigate their way through Clare’s narrow streets, prompting a furious reaction from residents.
According to the plans from Halifax-based Collett Consulting, parts more than five metres wide will have to be squeezed through areas such as outside Sea Pictures Gallery in Well Lane where the road narrows to four metres, with the turbine having to hang over the pavement.
A bollard and road island will also have to be removed at the junction of Church Street and Callis Street, just outside Clare Old School Community Centre.
The plans passed last year were fiercely opposed by the town, with Clare councillors now brandishing the transport proposals as “appalling” and “a national scandal”.
Engena are the agents behind the application from James Sills, and director John Fairlie said last night that the route through Clare had been declared suitable after “detailed onsite topographical surveys”.
But Clare’s borough councillor Alaric Pugh said: “I do think it is absolutely disgusting that the fragile, historic environment of somewhere like Clare, with so many irreplaceable, valuable buildings, can be put at risk for the sake of one person being allowed to produce subsidised energy. It’s a national scandal.”
Town council chairman Keith Haisman added: “We have houses with cellars that extend right out to the edge of the pavement, which is also where the gas and electricity runs.
“It’s appalling, quite honestly – we didn’t want the turbine in the first place, and now it seems like we’re going to be steamrollered by its component parts.”
The application was approved with the condition the applicants provided a construction management plan for the site, including transport arrangements.
The current route sees abnormal loads exit the A11 onto the A1307, join the A1017 and then travel through Sturmer, Stoke by Clare and Clare before it reaches Chilton Street.
Mr Fairlie said: “The turbine access route was fully considered and modelled at the planning stage, using the results of detailed onsite topographical surveys. “This concluded that the route through Clare is suitable for turbine delivery. Alternative routes were considered, however it was concluded that these are too narrow for turbine deliveries.
“It is our intention to construct the site in full accordance with the planning consent granted by the committee last year, and as such intend to keep to the route that they fully considered and approved.”
Residents at Tuesday’s annual town meeting estimated the abnormal loads could take up to five hours to reach the site from Baythorne Bridge, with fears raised about what would happen to public transport, school buses or any emergency vehicles, as well as the impact on the town’s businesses.
The plan has to be approved by Suffolk County Council’s highways department, and county councillor Mary Evans said officers had already expressed concerns about Baythorne Bridge.
“They’ve already gone to the developers and said Baythorne Bridge cannot bear the weight of one of the first loads they’re proposing,” Mrs Evans said.
“Highways haven’t even looked further through the town yet, they’ve got to the first point here and said it can’t come through.
“They will go through the plan in detail and if they’re not satisfied, they can refuse it.”
Clare has a long-standing problem with HGVs, with collapsed drains in the town reportedly caused by lorries riding up onto pavements.
Other options put forward at the meeting included airlifting the pieces in or using the A143 between Haverhill and Bury St Edmunds, and then heading south.
Part of the route goes through Essex, and Mr Pugh said: “They’re going to have to get a minimum of 18 abnormal load agreements with two counties and two police forces. It’s not easy, and they may think it’s easier to airlift it in using a Chinook or something.”