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New twist in wind turbine saga

PUBLISHED: 18:17 03 August 2009 | UPDATED: 15:19 07 July 2010

Emma Knights

An energy company which has fought for nearly eight years to get permission for wind turbines on Mid Norfolk farmland last night issued a strong "we won't walk away" message after it was accused of bullying the local community.

An energy company which has fought for nearly eight years to get permission for wind turbines on Mid Norfolk farmland last night issued a strong "we won't walk away" message after it was accused of bullying the local community.

Ecotricity managing director Dale Vince reinforced his determination to develop on a site at Wood Farm, Bradenham, near Dereham, which has been at the centre of a bitter planning saga.

It has divided local opinion with rival groups for and against the plans being formed. There have been three public inquiries into the proposals, with the last inquiry dismissing the plans partly because of noise issues.

Next Generation Limited, a subsidiary company of is Ecotricity, subsequently submitted a fresh application for temporary permission to put up a 70m meteorological monitoring mast at Wood Farm for two years.

Today Breckland Council's development control committee approved the temporary permission, although only for one year, after being reminded that members had to consider the mast application on its own merits and not whether it could be a forerunner for turbines being installed on the site.

The application split the committee - six members voted for the proposal and six voted against it before the committee's vice chairman Nigel Wilkin - who was standing in for chairman Elizabeth Gould - cast the final vote in favour of temporary permission for a year.

Following the decision Mr Vince said: “We're going to submit a new planning application shortly. This is the first stage in that process. We have sufficient room on site to increase the separation of the turbines from the nearest houses in such a way as to put beyond any doubt the issue of noise.

“This project has been tried and tested on every other issue for seven years now, noise has been a grey area with some planning inspectors taking one view and others a different one - we're going to put the issue beyond any doubt this time.

“The site itself is a good one for wind energy and there are not so many of those in Breckland.

“Future generations will probably look back in bemusement at the years of squabbling over two windmills in the face of overwhelming evidence of climate change - but they wouldn't thank us for walking away. And we don't intend to.”

Brian Kidd, chairman of Campaign Against Turbines at Shipdham and Scarning (CATSS), called it “a travesty of the democratic process.”

After the meeting he said: “I am not entirely surprised with the result because of the planning issue that the council had to consider but on the other hand I think it is a travesty of the democratic process. Three public inquiries have been dismissed and I think enough is enough. We ought to call a halt to this.”

During the meeting David Hill, Shipdham Parish Council chairman, said “We have been through a long process and it has wasted a lot of people's time and money.

“It has been turned down three times. Which piece of no do these guys (Ecotricity) not understand?”

Paul Hewett, Breckland's councillor for Shipdham, described the application as “a small businessman's attempt to bully and harass a community for commercial gain.”

Today's approval of the temporary mast for one year is subject to further consultation with the RSPB and also with Natural England in connection with bats in the area.

The saga began in 2001 when Ecotricity applied to build three turbines with 100m high towers on land near Wood Farm. This was later scaled back to two wind turbines.

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