Protestors 'frighten off' wind farm firm

WIND power supporters say they fear the company behind the plan to build up to ten turbines on the edge of a Second World War airfield has been frightened off by protestors.

WIND power supporters say they fear the company behind the plan to build up to ten turbines on the edge of a Second World War airfield has been frightened off by protestors.

Saxon Windpower of Ipswich is expected later this week to announce its decision on whether to proceed with plans for a £20 million wind farm at St James South Elmham, close to the former Metfield airfield.

However, while supporters of the project remain hopeful, some of them have expressed private fears that the bitter divisions the project has caused among local communities will lead to the company pulling out.

Landowner, Andrew Hadingham, was unavailable for comment yesterday but it is known that he has been put under pressure to withdraw, while anti-wind farm placards displayed on private property have been vandalised.

"Many people have become afraid to express their opinion because those that already have done have found themselves at loggerheads with neighbours and friends," said one of the project's supporters.

Saxon Windpower admitted three weeks ago that it was "not comfortable" with the acrimony existing in St James and nearby villages.

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However, the company is aware that its competitors are looking at the same area of Suffolk, claimed to be one of the best in the region for wind farm potential.

Plans have already been announced for a smaller wind farm at nearby Flixton and it seems certain that the area will eventually figure in a form of energy development which is being encouraged by the Government.

Energy Minister, Stephen Timms, announced earlier this week that electricity suppliers would be required to purchase 15.4% of their energy from renewable sources by the year 2015. The current target is 10.4% by 2010.

John Sanderson, spokesman for the pro wind power High Suffolk Renewable Energy Co-operative, said he could see no reason why the St James project should not go ahead.

"A certain amount of opposition has been expressed locally but this is from a vociferous minority," he said.

Experience elsewhere in the country had shown that wind farms posed fewer problems in reality compared with the perception of some locals.

"Wherever you put wind farms people have misgivings but there is no real downside as far as I can see," he added.

Jane Bastow, spokeswoman for Villagers Against Inappropriate Turbine Siting (VAITS) said the group thought the withdrawal of the St James wind farm plan would be a "sensible decision".

"If they do decide to apply for planning permission we will fight it all the way.

"VAITS is serious in its intensions and its objections are substantial. We are fully prepared to see this through," she added.

Ms Bastow said that although opponents were being accused of being a vocal minority the membership of VAITS was growing each day and now stood at about 200.

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