Views on East coast wind farm project

REPORTER Sarah Chambers was among those visiting the Out Newton scheme near Hull. Here she gives her view.YOU have only to stop at a high vantage point on the edge of some towns to understand how bad planning decisions can ruin a skyline.

REPORTER Sarah Chambers was among those visiting the Out Newton scheme near Hull. Here she gives her view.

YOU have only to stop at a high vantage point on the edge of some towns to understand how bad planning decisions can ruin a skyline.

Villagers living close to Parham Airfield, which has been earmarked for a possible wind farm containing six 101m turbines, are understandably concerned about how it may affect them.

Call it self-interest. Call it concern for their environment. But you have to keep asking yourself the question: would this be acceptable to me where I live?

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A free trip this week laid on by the company behind the proposals, Saxon Windpower, gave locals a chance to take a look at the real thing.

Out Newton, near Hull, which has been in operation for two years, is a seven-turbine wind farm set in crop fields close to the sea.

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Around two dozen local residents braved the long coach journey and set out to find out for themselves how the turbines look and sound.

I joined them on their journey to record some of their reactions, and try to get some kind of a handle on an issue which has divided the community since the proposals were revealed at the end of last year.

Campaigners against the proposals, who have formed themselves into NOWAP, No Windfarm At Parham, argue these types of turbines belong at sea.

On the other hand, we are told the Parham site would produce enough electricity to serve up to 6,770 homes, or up to 13.5% of Suffolk Coastal's consumption.

A drop in the ocean, say the objectors. But surely, say the windfarm's supporters, if anywhere should be leading the way in efforts large or small to reduce greenhouse gases and reduce the effects of global warming, it should be the inhabitants of Suffolk, where the effects of global warming are being felt on its sea-ravaged coast.

As we filed out of the coach at Out Newton and headed towards the turbines, I was struck by their colossal size, as they towered above us, casting long shadows over the field where they were set.

From close range, the turning blades produce two relentless mechanical sounds while in motion - one high-pitched, the other a whooshing noise as the blades slice through the air.

It did not amount to an unbearable din, but I for one would not want to spend a long time beneath them when the wind was up.

I have to say, standing in their shadow in the middle of a huge crop field, I found their scale - combined with the regular monotony of mechanical sound - awesome, daunting and even vaguely chilling.

I was also aware that at around 80m to the tip of the blade, these whopping structures were not as tall as those proposed for Parham, hardly a fault of our hosts, since an exact replica of what they are proposing in Suffolk would not be possible to find.

Strangely, once I moved away from them, my perception was entirely reversed.

With distance, they became benign. They fitted innocuously into their surroundings, to my mind neither ugly nor beautiful.

The noise drops noticeably as you move away. I walked a few hundred metres from them. I was still aware of the noise and for that reason I would not have wanted to live within that kind of radius, but it was clear that the sound was dropping off considerably.

I could not say at what point the sound would no longer bother you, but it was obvious that it was in some ways a more important issue for householders than the physical look of the turbines once beyond their perimeter.

Noise can be intrusive. In the Parham scheme, the nearest homes lie on the landowners' property, and the closest of these is around 400m away. The next scattering of homes, beyond the landowners', are around 700m or more from the wind farm site. Whether these would hear the turbines or not, I don't know.

We drove to a roadside vantage point about 1500m or 1.5km from the nearest turbine.

The impact of the structures was now muted, and certainly many times less intrusive to me than the regimental line of giant electrical pylons and associated cables we see every day goose-stepping across quiet meadows and crop fields the length and breadth of the country.

We were just a field away, but I could not pick up their sound any longer, even once the traffic had passed.

My belief following that visit is that the turbines at Out Newton did have an impact close up, but it was very localised. Those living at any distance, as far as I could see, would not be affected by them.

The important point for householders living near the proposed site is where that critical distance lies - and that, surely, is a question for the planners.

How the six proposed turbines would fit into their environment at the airfield at Parham is not yet clear. How they would relate to the other buildings - like the church at Great Glemham and the scattering of homes which will surround them - has to be carefully considered.

If Saxon Windpower do decide to submit a planning application for the Parham site, I hope and believe the welfare of those living nearby will be properly considered, as well as the benefits such a scheme would bring to the population as a whole.

Ultimately, it will be Suffolk Coastal district councillors who will decide. They have a set of experts to guide them, and it is in these that we need to put our faith.

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