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Public have their say at wind farm inquiry

Members of the public have put forward their arguments in support and in opposition to the proposed ‘Big Field Wind Farm’, which has been the subject of a public inquiry, writes Rosie Cripps.

The proposal compromises eleven wind turbines with an approximate height of 125 metres, with a site stretching across the rural landscape between villages including Week St Mary, Whitstone, Warbstow and North Petherwin.

The developers, Good Energy, are appealing against Cornwall Council’s refusal of the proposal. Good Energy thinks the proposed wind farm could contribute towards the UK’s carbon reduction, if approved.

The opening inquiry as part of the appeal on Tuesday, April 26, saw the assessment of heritage assets, with grade 1 listed buildings and prehistoric sites one of the main concerns for the local communities opposing the wind farm.

Following this, concerns have been raised about the disruption of the natural beauty that the villages surrounding the site will suffer, as well as flickering from the blades, noise pollution, and heritage assets being affected.

The community group CEREAL, in support of Good Energy’s proposed wind farm, has been mirroring the benefits of the proposal, enforcing the concept of renewable energy and how it may contribute towards helping the environment in the future.

However, Communities Against Rural Exploitation (CARE) and six parish councils, making up the Rule 6 group, are arguing against Good Energy’s proposals, expressing concern for the welfare of local communities and the disruption of their area’s heritage assets and natural beauty.

The Planning Inspector, Paul Griffiths, has been listening to arguments for around two weeks, and will put a report together to be presented to the Secretary of State, Greg Clarke, who will make a final decision.

Communities from both sides of the argument have been attending the inquiries over the past weeks, highlighting their thoughts and listening to officials.

On Monday, May 9, the public inquiry continued at the Gateway Centre, Launceston, where members of the public were able to present their views about the proposal to the Planning Inspector.

Among those supporting the proposal was Bill Andrews, who lives in South Wheatley, and is a member of the group, CEREAL (Communities Embracing Renewable Energy and Life). He said: “There is great local support, especially from those living closest to the site. We believe that the proposed wind farm will make a valuable contribution to the low carbon energy system.”

A member of the church from South Wheatley said previously: “I know and understand all arguments against positive projects such as this, and I know it is due to ignorance. The arguments against the proposal are self-concerned, rather than focusing on a stable future for our grandchildren’s generation.

“If we do our bit, we have to do it now with the technologies we have. We can’t have people look back and think ‘they didn’t care’.”

However, one member of the public from Jacobstow stated that the area’s Dark Skies asset could be greatly affected by the wind farm, and another from Poundstock claimed the wind farm could make a significant intrusion to the landscape, which is known to many as the ‘Happy Valley’.

A resident from Week St Mary, who has lived there for around 24 years, said: “The road in Week St Mary is busy and also has a busy cycle route, where you can often see many cyclists. The proposed wind farm of such an industrial scale would be detrimental to the heritage of our area.

“It is extremely sad that the proposal has drawn communities apart and destroyed local relationships.”

William Pearce from Week St Mary, who has lived in the village for 40 years, added: “I am concerned that my health and welfare will be affected, caused by the noise of the turbines and their vibrations, as well as the flicker from the blades.

“This development is too close to the village; the developers have still not engaged with the community.. Turbines are machines, and will disturb the quality of life for everyone.”

The Planning Inspector will put a report together with both arguments. The report will be presented to the Secretary of State, who will make the final decision on the proposal for the Big Field Wind Farm.