A controversial application to build a huge wind farm in north Hampshire has been refused.
EDF Energy Renewables wanted to erect 14 turbines near Bullington Cross, near the A303 and A34 junction.
But councillors from the planning committees of the three authorities that the site would have crossed – Basingstoke and Deane, Winchester and Test Valley – were not convinced and voted to support officers’ recommendations to refuse the application at a special meeting at The Guildhall, in Winchester.
Four of the turbines would have been in Basingstoke and Deane, seven in Winchester, and three in Test Valley.
Among the main objectors were the Ministry of Defence and Popham Airfield.
Joint Helicopter Command said the development would infringe on an important low-level flying training area, used by Chinooks from RAF Odiham. The number of military sorties from there is expected to rise as deployed squadrons return from Afghanistan next year, and with the arrival of the Mk6 Chinook.
A report submitted by a club which flies out of Popham Airfield said the wind farm could cause an obstruction to the emergency landing area, which would “not in itself cause an accident, but it could be a contributory factor in converting any survivable forced landing incident into a fatal accident.”
Supporters said the scheme would act as a boost for the local economy, and draw in £5million in additional rates for the county over the 20 years of the project’s duration, as well as £140,000 per year from EDF for community projects.
But Councillor Stephen Godfrey, who represents Wonston and Micheldever, said a large proportion of the business rates earned from the scheme would go straight to central government.
Britain has the national target of producing 30 per cent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020 and the development was backed in principle by national and local planning strategy.
Ernie Shelton, an EDF consultant, told councillors: “Hampshire will never have another opportunity like this again, and I urge you to do the right thing.”
The wind farm would have been capable of generating 62GWHrs of electricity per year, or eight per cent of the combined electrical needs of the three districts. But each blade would have stood 126 metres tall and be visible from up to 35km away.
Basingstoke and Deane councillors voted seven to five to refuse, while Winchester City councillors voted seven to one and Test Valley voted nine to four against.
Speaking after the meeting, Ian Watson said on behalf of EDF Energy Renewables that the decision was “disappointing.”
He said the company believes the site is an “excellent location for a wind farm” and could “generate significant benefits to both the local community and economy.”
He pointed out the high levels of support from the community and the thousands of letters in support, adding: “As a country, we continue to face a significant challenge to maintain energy supply, tackle climate change and maintain affordable energy prices; the proposed scheme would make a positive contribution to all of these issues.”
EDF will now consider its options going forward.
One of the main supporters of the scheme was Hampshire Renewable Energy Cooperative.
Martin Heath, a director of the Co-op, said: “Clearly, this is a great disappointment to us and to the many volunteers who helped us out over the past 13 months.
“A lot of hard work has been put into getting a community ownership of the wind farm. Many more people supported the wind farm than opposed it, but still our councillors don’t get it.
“The biggest danger to us, our ecology and our wildlife is global warming. Somehow our councillors think it is wind farms that are dangerous!”
He said the energy co-op will encourage EDF to appeal.
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