Wind farm bid near world-famous reserve

A “GREEN” energy company is planning to build a wind farm only two miles from the internationally important Minsmere bird reserve, it has been revealed.

By David Green

A “GREEN” energy company is planning to build a wind farm only two miles from the internationally important Minsmere bird reserve, it has been revealed.

The RSPB and Suffolk Coastal District Council have been informally consulted by the company over site investigations taking place in the vicinity of Theberton Airfield, near Leiston, a United States air force base during the Second World War.

But a senior planner said he believed there could be “significant problems” with the site which is near the boundary of the nationally-designated Suffolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Surveys are being conducted in the airfield area on behalf of Spanish company Iberdrola .

The disclosure led yesterday to a claim by the group opposing the wind farm at Parham - given planning permission in November last year - that developers now considered Suffolk Coastal District Council to be a “pushover” and that wind farms could be proposed anywhere in the district.

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Dr John Constable, spokesman for No Windfarm At Parham (NOWAP), claimed: “This was bound to happen. I think Suffolk Coastal have shown themselves to be weak and ineffective in their handling of the Parham wind farm application and are failing to protect the local environment and population.”

His criticism was rejected by Philip Ridley, the district council's head of planning, who said the local authority's scrutiny of the Parham application had been “full, fair and thorough”.

Mr Ridley said the council was expecting a “scoping” application to be made in respect of the Theberton application - asking planners to identify the issues which have to be addressed.

A planning application was unlikely to be made until much later in the year. However, his own view was that there could be significant problems.

“It is quite close to an internationally designated bird reserve and, of course, there are landscape and residential amenity issues to be addressed,” he said.

Theberton Airfield, once the base for USAF Mustangs, is now mainly farmland although a caravan site called the Cakes and Ale is on its eastern boundary. The farmland is thought to be owned by a German who does not live in this country.

The identity of the landowner involved in the present site investigations and the number of turbines proposed are not known.

Marian Andrews, district councillor for Theberton and other nearby villages, said she was in favour of renewable energy and the use of former airfields. She had voted in favour of the Parham wind farm project.

“In principle I would support having a wind farm on Theberton Airfield but I might change my mind if specific problems are identified with the site,” she said.

Renny Henderson, RSPB spokesman at its East Anglian headquarters at Norwich, said the society was in favour of wind power in principle but would want to be satisfied there was no adverse environmental impact from the proposed development.

“We will be expecting a full belt and braces impact assessment. Apart from Minsmere there are nature reserves all along the coast and the area inland is important for birds such as the marsh harrier,” he said.

Fergus Little, owner of the Cakes and Ale caravan site, could not be contacted for comment.

James Innes, UK spokesman for Iberdrola, was also unavailable at the company's office in Solihull.

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