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Turbine ‘monster’ plans tamed by rural protesters

Protesters are celebrating after a wind turbine application dubbed ‘The Hatherleigh Monster’ has been rejected by planners. Since Cornish developer Mi-Grid announced plans for a 77 metre wind turbine at Heane Farm near Hatherleigh back in March, the project has garnered controversy. A team of residents from the area have campaigned against the turbine, dubbing it ‘The Hatherleigh Monster’. As part of their protest, objectors flew a blimp on Sunday, June 29, near the site to demonstrate the visual impact it would have. On Tuesday, a packed council chamber in Tavistock saw West Devon borough planners unanimously refuse the proposal on the grounds that it would have a detrimental effect on the wider landscape and character of the area, and there had been ‘insufficient evidence’ provided to satisfy the planning authority that there would not be substantial harm to the setting of the Grade I listed Hatherleigh church. West Devon Borough Council received 159 letters of objection, with only 16 letters supporting the plans. Geoffrey Cleverdon has lived in the Hatherleigh area his whole life. He told the committee: ‘Hatherleigh is entirely surrounded by the most beautiful, unspoiled and rare countryside in the whole of Devon. Visitors are attracted by our many walks and trails through this countryside. It has a tranquility unmatched anywhere. Planners have to consider the damage to the landscape and the detrimental visual impact on the area.’ Hatherleigh mayor Andy Gilbert used the Grade I church as one of several reasons that the application should be refused. He said:?‘Our peaceful churchyard currently enjoys beautiful views across the countryside. The turbine would spoil this peaceful tranquility. Whichever route is used to approach Hatherleigh, this unsightly development would dominate the view. ‘Residents are proud and passionate about the area, and the town council has seen a passionate campaign against the turbine. Simply put, the benefits do not outweigh the harm the turbine would have on the area.’ The developer originally explored four potential energy project proposals for the site. These were for a solar farm, three turbines, a single medium scale turbine, or a single small scale turbine. The company ran a community consultation from mid-January to the end of February on the potential schemes. The results of the consultation, together with the completion of a detailed feasability assessment, led to Mi-Grid deciding that the 77 metre turbine scheme was the most viable option. The developers said the turbine would have generated 900 kilowatts and the energy produced would meet the needs of approximately 470 homes and offset 850 tonnes of CO2. The turbine would have been operational for 25 years and would have been decommissioned at the end of this time period. A community fund would have been set up to benefit the people of Hatherleigh. The applicant Jeremy Dennis’s family have farmed at Heane Farm for more than 100 years. He said that his farm had been hit hard by the foot and mouth crisis of 2001, and farming was changing. Mr Dennis told planners: ‘Over the year our family has had to change and adapt its farming. We need to diversify, and renewable energy gives us an ideal way to do that. I’ve lived in Hatherleigh my whole life, and I have seen the town change over the years. ‘There is a lot of support in the area for this, particularly from young people. I would not bring forward this temporary development if I felt it would negatively impact Hatherleigh. ‘There is a national need for increasing renewable energy output. It is written into policy and cannot be ignored. Any area that can contribute should be embracing the opportunity to do so.’ Borough councillor David Hockridge said: ‘In my opinion this development would bring industrial development into the rural countryside, which is something we don’t want. In the South West, it seems solar panels and wind turbines are popping up overnight, like mushrooms. ‘It is a great detriment to our local countryside. I am all for renewable energy but to be done in other ways, like hydropower, which does not have the same visual impact.’ Penny Mills, chairman of Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, Devon, said: ‘We are very pleased that committee members today unanimously voted to refuse this application. The impact on the landscape, on Hatherleigh’s ancient heritage and on people’s homes would have been totally unacceptable. ‘We will have to wait and see now whether the developer will lodge an appeal. There are currently 32 other wind turbine applications in appeal and 57 pending a decision across the region. But so many have already been permitted, that we are all now living in a giant wind farm in this part of Devon, that nobody asked for and only a handful of people benefit from.’