Councillors have rejected plans to build two wind turbines on land near Olveston.
They raised concerns that the two 130-metre tall turbines would spoil views across the Severn Vale and set a precedent for development on the green belt.
Representatives from Olveston, Aust, Pilning and Severn Beach, and Almondsbury parish councils spoke against the proposals at the Development Control (West) Committee meeting held on Thursday, December 11.
Over 100 members of the public attended the meeting and there was heated debate amongst members of the public with opposing views on the application.
Cllr Irene Reid, vice chairman of Olveston Parish Council, told the committee: “Olveston Parish Council undertook a survey of residents in Olveston and found that 86 per cent of residents were against the proposals with 14 per cent for.
“The turbines would cause significant harm to the green belt. Protection of the greenbelt is important because it stops the spread of the industrial area from Bristol and Avonmouth into rural areas.
“The turbines are totally out of proportion to the surrounding area”.
Barbara Day, a member of Sustainable Thornbury, warned councillors of the need for more development of renewable energy sources: “I’ve become increasingly aware of the need for us to come away from the use of fossil fuels.
“If these turbines are constructed then, as well as the world benefitting, locals will benefit too.”
Claire Barnard, chairman of the Olveston Windfarm Action Group (OWAG) stressed the importance of protecting the greenbelt from development.
“We represent the whole local area – not just Olveston and Ingst –because the plans would have had a huge effect on a much wider level, we’ve worked with people from Almondsbury and Elberton as well as people living along the A38 who want to see the greenbelt kept as it is.
“One of the councillors made a very good point that the greenbelt is not just there for people living in it – it is Bristol’s greenbelt and it was important that we protected it for everyone.
“The most important debate surrounding the issue is that of the greenbelt. You have to show very special circumstances to be able to develop on the greenbelt and renewable energy, on its own, is not enough justification to do so.
“I think council officers demonstrated that any development within the greenbelt cannot be taken lightly and the relatively small contribution the two turbines would make to South Gloucestershire is not a good enough reason for the development.
One member of the public, speaking at the meeting, claimed that some Olveston residents felt they were being intimidated by groups against the application.
Mrs Barnard said that these accusations were not something she was aware of and that OWAG was accepting that some local people were for the proposals.
“I have never had anyone come up to me and raise the issue in the past but obviously the issue was a very divisive one.
“It has never been OWAG’s stance to be aggressive because that would be completely unacceptable.”
Cllr Matthew Riddle (Con, Severn) who addressed the planning meeting said ‘these structures are just too tall for the Severn Vale and the Green Belt. I am pleased the application was turned down by the committee. I expect the developers now to go to appeal, so the debate is probably not yet finished.
As part of the proposals the developers agreed to pay £5,000 per MW of installed capacity each year to local councils, estimated to be between £14,000 and £19,200 per year, which, was compared to the £875 paid per MW at the Tower Hill solar development in Tytherington.
Speaking following the decision to reject the proposal, Owen Saward, REG Windpower’s development manager for the M48 project, said: “The decision is disappointing, not just for us, but also for Bristol Energy Co-Operative and the project’s many local supporters.
“It is clear from the attendance at the meeting that there is a lot of local support for this project. Additionally, because Bristol Energy Co-Operative has an exclusive option to buy the wind farm, all the financial benefits from operating a renewable energy scheme would have remained local.
“While it is much too early to speculate about the next steps for the project, we still firmly believe that this site, between two busy motorways, is an excellent place for a wind farm to generate a significant amount of safe, clean, renewable electricity.”
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