Turbine bid sparks new campaign group
Credit: Sam Hughes | Okehampton Times | 03 September 2014 | www.okehampton-today.co.uk ~~
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A West Devon village hall was full to overflowing on Monday at a public meeting to discuss ways to prevent a proposal for a 250ft wind turbine at a farm in Stowford. An action group has now been formed to work towards halting the plan and other developments in the future. Around 130 people filled Lewdown Victory Hall at a meeting held by MABRAKE (Milton Abbot, Bradstone and Kelly) – an independent local group of residents which campaigns to preserve the West Devon countryside – to discuss proposal for a wind turbine at Wreys Barton Farm. Developers Murex Energy have submitted a screening opinion request to West Devon Borough Council for a single 500kw wind turbine. At the meeting representatives of MABRAKE, which is affiliated to LLVAG (Lifton Lyd Valley Action Group) and LASAG (Lamerton Against Solar Array Group), told the crowd of its work to stop large solar array and turbine developments in West Devon. David Gynn said some residents in Stowford asked MABRAKE for help in forming an action group. He said: ‘We need people to come forward. The aim of this evening is to get your support for this – it really is all in your hands.’ He said West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox was invited to the meeting but was unable to attend. ‘Mr Cox said if a turbine in West Devon goes to appeal and is granted, he would personally take the application to secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles to be considered further,’ Mr Gynn told the meeting. Chair of MABRAKE Gary Vanstone said the group believed large turbines were having a ‘devastating’ effect on the landscape – and trying to get them stopped was an ‘ongoing battle’. He said: ‘We are not climate change deny-ers, we just don’t believe that large solar arrays and large turbines are the way to tackle it.’ He said there were other ways to address the issue, including small hydro-electric power units, solar tiles on new builds instead of solar panels and a programme to bring all houses in West Devon up to a high insulation standard. Mr Vanstone said: ‘Unfortunately at the moment the Government and councils are not listening. Until they do we have to fight against all new applications like this. It is changing our landscape and destroying our countryside.’ He said that when the application was submitted and if it went through, along with the others in the area, it would change the landscape for the worse and would have a ‘devastating’ impact on the nearby villages of Stowford, Thrushleton and Lewdown. Mr Vanstone said there were three things MABRAKE wanted attendees of the meeting to do – put their objections in to the developers and to West Devon Borough Council, because ‘every objection counts’, put themselves forward to form a local action group to take on the workload to create a portfolio on the effect on historical buildings, footpaths, conservation areas etc, and to attend other meetings that will be arranged in the future as this proposal progresses. From the meeting, 12 volunteers put themselves forward to form an action group and a meeting is being arranged to make plans for its next move. Several other people offered their services, and £275 was raised in donations, to be used by the Stowford action group for various expenses. Director of Murex Energy Steve Ellam said after the meeting: ‘Global warming is a proven scientific fact. Renewable energy is the only way to combat global warming and the UK has signed up to ambitious targets to meet this. ‘Doing nothing is not an option and future generations will not thank us if we ignore the environment. ‘Although some politicians are very sensitive to wind turbines in the run-up to the election, it remains that we must continue to increase the renewable energy generation capacity to help combat global warming and maintain the security of energy supply.’ Mr Ellam said this particular project was different from other turbine proposals in that it would be a joint venture with Community Power Co-operative, with a community benefit and services package and an investment share offer for local people, so local people would have the chance to invest in the turbine and get direct financial benefit back. A meeting will be held by Stowford Parish Council on Tuesday (September 9) to get residents’ opinions on the proposal. Representatives of Murex Energy have been invited to attend as well as a West Devon Planning representative and members of MABRAKE. A spokesman for West Devon Borough Council said: ‘Sometimes, before a formal planning application is submitted, a prospective developer may make a screening opinion request. ‘This is purely to decide whether a proposed development would need an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). ‘The opinion given does not suggest in any way that the proposal is acceptable or not. ‘It only judges whether the environmental impacts of a proposed application are of such a level as to require an EIA. ‘A decision is made by the local planning authority which judges the proposal against criteria contained in government regulations. ‘There is no requirement for the public or parish council to make a comment at this stage.’
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