Lincoln Cathedral, an imposing building set on a hill in a county renowned for its lack of gradients, has defined the local landscape for hundreds of years. But plans for a wind farm on the nearby estate of vacuum-cleaner tycoon Sir James Dyson, with turbines twice as high as the cathedral, have raised fears that the area’s unique character could be destroyed.
The proposed wind farm near the village of Nocton, eight miles south-east of Lincoln, would be one of the biggest in the country, made up of 20 turbines, each 149.5 metres high. Many locals have voiced strong opposition to the development, which was first mooted two years ago and would be built on agricultural land owned by Sir James’s Beeswax farming group.
Local people fear it would be noisy, damage property prices and threaten wildlife such as endangered lapwings and Marsh harriers. But their biggest concern, it seems, is the damage it could do to the view.
“Lincoln Cathedral defines the landscape for miles in each direction,” said Melvin Grosvenor, who lives in the village of Baumber, 10 miles west of the proposed site. “This [wind farm] would spoil the long-distance view that has existed for a thousand years and change the character of the whole area.”
The development would also set back the cathedral’s campaign to become a Unesco World Heritage site, he said.
Opponents of the turbines received a substantial boost this week when the Government introduced new rules that will make it extremely difficult to build new onshore wind farms without widespread public support. The changes mean that wind farms will get the green light only if they are included in the council’s local plan for the area, which is drawn up every few years in consultation with residents.
Vattenfall, the Swedish power company that has floated the idea of the Nocton Fen wind farm, has yet to submit a formal planning application for the project. As such it is one of the projects likely to be hit hardest by last week’s rule change, which won’t apply to developments where a planning application has already been made.
Opponents believe Nocton Fen is a major test case for the new planning regime and will help establish just how much power locals will really have to block new wind farm projects.
Lord Cormac, a life peer who lives next door to Lincoln Cathedral, is, if anything, even more strongly opposed to the development than Mr Grosvenor.
“I believe onshore wind farms in general are unreliable, uneconomic and very unsightly. But this one, of 20 turbines roughly twice the height of Lincoln Cathedral, placed in an area of quiet natural beauty, is a ghastly and monstrous proposal,” he told The Independent on Sunday. “It would completely ruin centuries- old views of one of the most majestic buildings in Europe.”
Vattenfall is in the midst of a six-week public consultation on the project, which ends on 20 July. It is running a series of information days at local villages as part of the process. On 19 June, it was the turn of Dunster, about two miles south of the site.
Standing outside the village hall with a group opposed to the development, gamekeeper Kevin Clark said he feared the wind farm could affect birds and animals, affecting his business and the security of his family. “I’m very worried – it’s in the back of my mind all the time,” he said. “I don’t know how it will affect the birds but obviously my main concern is that they will fly into the turbines. I’ve lived here since I was four and it’s the only job I’ve had since I’ve left school.”
Cathy Ward, a retired school, added: “It has been quite devastating. It has divided communities and even families. People come here to walk, jog, cycle, horse-ride or just sit in their cars – it’s wrong to take that away,” she said.
There is also some resentment that Sir James will earn rent from Vattenfall, although he has pledged to donate the money to the community. Not everyone is against the turbines, however: Patrick Fryer, a retired serviceman, has little time for much of the opposition. “It’s very much based on house prices and wanting quiet country villages. They would get used to it – like a train, truck or road. Eighty per cent of the villagers just sit on their hands and ask: ‘If they put this wind farm up, what is in it for me?’” he said.
Mr Fryer argues that the development would create jobs and says that wind power is essential if we are to safely reduce fossil fuel use and battle climate change.
“The whole of the planet needs to work together towards some sort of solution on fossil fuels. The alternative is nuclear, but we still don’t know what to do with the spent fuel. So that would be gifting our grandchildren a huge problem,” he said.
Geoff Ward, a local engineer, welcomed the Government’s decision to hand more say to locals when it comes to wind-farm development. He believes the majority of residents appear to be against Nocton Fen.
“It’s a very encouraging development,” he said, adding that the fact the Government announcement is still “a little vague” means he can’t relax just yet.
Mr Grosvenor added: “The announcement is absolutely a step in the right direction but we can’t sit back and think it’s a done deal. Local communities need to make it abundantly clear that they don’t want it,” he said.
Vattenfall project manager Graham Davey conceded that the Government’s decision to localise wind-farm planning permission had made the application process less certain. “The statement clearly introduces a degree of uncertainty to the planning process, but it would be premature to set out how we think this may affect our proposal for the Nocton Fen Wind Energy Project,” he said.
“Vattenfall has extensively engaged for the past two years with communities around Nocton Fen and as a result the proposal for the Nocton Fen Wind Energy Project has undergone significant amendment thanks to local advice.
“We believe the process to be thorough and takes all local opinion seriously.”