Anger over wind farm support claims

PROTESTERS opposing plans to build Suffolk's first inshore wind-farm on a former airfield hit back angrily last night at the developer's claims it had won majority support in a poll.

By David Green

PROTESTERS opposing plans to build Suffolk's first inshore wind-farm on a former airfield hit back angrily last night at the developer's claims it had won majority support in a poll.

Saxon Windpower wants to erect up to six, 120-metre high turbines at Parham airfield, and held an exhibition at the site last week to gauge public opinion.

But its claims that 60% of people who filled in an 'exit questionnaire' were in favour of the project were last night dismissed as "laughable" by furious protesters.

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Many residents who attended the exhibition said they were not aware of the questionnaires and claimed the result was therefore "distorted".

The row erupted after Saxon issued a press release following the public exhibition – stating of the 71 people who had filled in exit questionnaires, 43 supported the project, 16 were against it and 12 were unsure.

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But a story in Saturday's EADT setting out the firm's claim was met with incredulity by some local people.

Drew Stevenson, of the local opposition group No Windfarm at Parham Airfield (NOWAP), said he had obtained 30 signatures from local people yesterday who said they had attended the exhibition but not been polled and would like to register their vote against the scheme.

He is now inviting Saxon to revise its survey figures in the light of the signatures.

"We only collected enough to show that, added to Saxon's results, there is a majority against the project. We could have got many more signatures had we spent more time," he said.

After the exhibition, James Townsend, project manager, was reported as saying: "We are encouraged that of those who expressed a firm view, the ratio in favour was almost three to one for the proposal at Parham Airfield."

But local district councillor, Colin Hart, argued: "The vast majority were totally against. I wasn't surveyed by Saxon. I saw no survey form to fill out."

Mr Hart added: "Local residents are near unanimous in their opposition. The case they are making is reasoned, serious and well thought through.

"The developers' exit survey following the public exhibition they held last Wednesday is so incredible as to be positively laughable."

Lady Cranbrook, of Great Glemham, said she had attended the exhibition with two other members of her family. All three were against the project but none of them were aware of the questionnaire.

"There was no visible evidence of people being polled and about 20 people I've spoken to since the event have said the same," she added.

Lady Cranbrook stressed that her husband, Lord Cranbrook, was remaining impartial over the wind power plan because he was clerk to Great Glemham Parish Council.

Andrew Nunn, a district councillor who holds the Cabinet portfolio for the environment at Suffolk Coastal District Council, said he had attended the exhibition and, among the people he spoke to, only one had been in favour.

"I certainly wasn't offered the opportunity to fill in any questionnaire," he said.

Bill Richmond, a director of Saxon Windpower, said there had been no attempt to select those filling in questionnaire or to distort the result of the poll.

"As I understand it a pile of yellow questionnaire forms was left on the table for people to fill in if they wanted to and deposit in a box.

"We decided to publicise the result because we were rather surprised there was so much positive feedback. When we have done exhibitions before there has usually been a majority against," he said.

He added: "We're not pretending the survey is scientific - we're not a polling company. We were just struck by the number of positive votes in there."

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