Green light for controversial wind farm

CAMPAIGNERS have reluctantly admitted defeat in their battle against a major onshore wind farm close to homes in Essex after a Government inspector gave the go-ahead for work to begin.

James Hore

CAMPAIGNERS have reluctantly admitted defeat in their battle against a major onshore wind farm close to homes in Essex after a Government inspector gave the go-ahead for work to begin.

Energy company Npower Renewables now has permission to build a five-turbine wind farm at Earls Hall Farm between Clacton and St Osyth after it successfully appealed against a council decision to refuse the project.

Last year Tendring district councillors rejected proposals for the 410-feet turbines and substation even though they had been recommended for approval by planning officers.

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But following a Planning Inquiry, Npower's appeal has been granted and work can now begin at the 80-hectare site off St John's Road which could provide electricity for between 5,000 and 6,000 homes.

The announcement has infuriated campaign group STAPLE (South Tendring Acting to Protect Our Local Environment) which said a precedent had been set by allowing a wind farm cluster so close to people's homes.

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Campaigners said there are 320 homes within 1km and “at least 2,000” within a mile of the site.

There was also frustration because regulations did not allow the planning inspector to consider electricity that will be generated by the nearby Gunfleet Sands windfarm because targets for offshore and onshore energy production are totally independent of each other.

In his report, Paul Griffiths, the planning inspector, admitted the windfarm "must be harmful" to the character and appearance of the landscape in the area closest to the site.

However, he said: “In a landscape so heavily influenced by human activity, I do not accept that this windfarm would appear altogether alien.

"It seems tome that there would be significant resonance between a scheme designed to harvest the power of the wind and a landscape that is, at least in part, characterised by it".

The windfarmonly has a 25-year lifespan and then will be removed.

The inspector said he appreciated how some residents must feel they had taken "their share" of development due to the new Gunfleet development off the coast of Clacton.

There will be a range of conditions placed on the development, such as ensuring contruction noise is kept to a minimum.

Dave Harrington, spokesman for STAPLE, said the group did not have enough money to appeal the decision and said the campaign had now "come to an end".

He said: "We believe that this project is inappropriately situated being so close to so many houses. It looks like the basis for its acceptance is quite simply because, as yet, there are no onshore wind turbines in Essex.

"The East of England region is behind in its quota targets for renewable energy generation. It is this which provides a contorted rationale for the scheme.

"Ironically, the Gunfleet Sands offshore project, which will eventually deliver 20 times more power than the five turbines planned for Earls Hall Farm, is completely ignored, since in the mind of policy-makers, offshore and onshore quotas are independent of each other."

STAPLE said it “disagreed profoundly” with the decision and said people could now look forward to noise and visual intrusion in their lives.

"STAPLE would like to thank the hundreds of supporters who have consistently backed his campaign.

"The group does not have the financial capability to appeal against a decision which we continue to believe is not in the interest of local people.

Nor do we think that the pursuit of solutions to the pressing issue of climate change is well served by the imposition on local communities of inappropriate projects.

“So the campaign against the project has come to an end."

The group is to remain up and running to provide advice and support for anyone with concerns during the construction of the wind farm or once it has been completed.

Douglas Carswell, MP for Harwich and Clacton, was one of those who spoke against the windfarm.

He claimed it would have a “serious impact” on people's lives in Clacton and the surrounding area.

"They are not nice eco-friendly sources of electricity - they are monster turbines," he said previsouly.

Npower Renewables were not available for comment last night.

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