It is one of the “England’s 100 best views” but locals fear that a proposal to build a 242ft high wind turbine will put an end to that accolade.
In the scattered communities around King Alfred’s Tower on the Somerset-Wiltshire border near Bruton, the fight is on.
Swansea-based Seren Energy has applied to build the single wind turbine at Gilcombe Farm, a short distance from the brick tower that commemorates the spot where King Alfred rallied the forces of Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire, before his decisive defeat of the Danes at the battle of Edington in 878AD.
The brick tower, erected in the mid 18th century by banker Henry Hoare II, owner of the Stourhead estate, currently dominates the landscape in the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
But it is only 160ft high, and locals fear that a huge white windmill will desecrate that view, which also includes Iron Age hill forts, the site of a Roman temple, and wooded landscape of the now National Trust-owned Stourhead estate.
It was Sir Simon Jenkins, chairman of the National Trust, who included the view from nearby Creech Hill in his book, England’s 100 Best Views published in association with the National Trust.
Seren Energy’s managing director, Steve Hack, is also a leading figure in a conservation organisation – he is a board member of Friends of the Earth.
His company specialises in single turbine projects of up to 500kw and he says turbines are a crucial part of the green energy mix but says that when the company looks at locations minimal impact on the landscape is as important as generative potential.
The application will be considered by South Somerset District Council.
Mr Hack admitted that the site is contentious but said: “As far as South Somerset is concerned there are relatively limited opportunities for turbines, but this is relatively simple as far as good conditions and delivery are concerned and there are not that many people who live very close to the site.
“The overall impact on the local population is going to be low.”
Mr Hack said the turbine would produce enough energy to power 400 homes.
He has made what he describes as a: “generous offer” to put money from the profit back into the community and said it is double the level suggested by the Government.
But people across the area are rallying to fight the proposal.
Former Mendip District councillor Dick Skidmore, now living at Bruton, has written to the planning department to say the turbine would: “degrade a rural landscape particularly in a tourist area” and he is surprised at that it has been put forward following the Government’s changing policy which favours more off-shore turbines.
He points out that the site is close to two regional waking trails, and says photographs included with the application are misleading.
He warns that the Ministry of Defence is sure to insist on a warning light on the structure at night, further changing the night landscape and warns that property prices could also be affected.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding