Proposed wind turbine outside Dereham raises concerns over farming, aviation and landscape

PUBLISHED: 09:25 17 July 2014 | UPDATED: 09:26 17 July 2014

North Tuddenham cattle farmer Ron Smith says he may be forced out of business if plans for a 78-metre wind turbine are approved on a neighbouring field. Picture: Ian Burt

North Tuddenham cattle farmer Ron Smith says he may be forced out of business if plans for a 78-metre wind turbine are approved on a neighbouring field. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2014

A planned 78-metre wind turbine on agricultural land east of Dereham has generated a storm of opposition, with concerns including the possible effects on farm animals and dangers to aircraft.

Energy company EDP wants to build the turbine, a sub-station, vehicle access tracks, a crane pad and a construction compound on an area of privately-owned land off Bush Lane, near North Tuddenham.

More than 60 letters of objection have been submitted to Breckland Council, with concerns including the impact on the rural landscape, noise and shadow flicker, devaluation of nearby properties and the effect on wildlife, particularly the owls and bats in neighbouring woodland.

North Tuddenham Parish Council’s response says 39 members of the public attended a meeting on July 8 and “everyone present objected without exception”.

But the applicant’s planning statement maintains the impact of the turbine would be “generally be of a low level” and that the site “possesses the right characteristics for a wind turbine development and the wind resource to enable the generation of renewable energy.” The proposed turbine site is 50m from the western boundary of Abbotts Farm, on Mill Road, North Tuddenham.

Nearby farmer Ron Smith said if the plan was approved it could “ruin” his business, as he was worried about the effect on his 330-strong herd of cattle – particularly his 170 dairy cows.

He said: “Being so close to it, with the noise and the flicker effect, my concern is whether we can still continue to milk cows and breed cattle under one of these things. Will it frighten the animals? Will it affect their fertility?

“I have got to fight this thing because it will ruin my home and my business. I don’t know if compensation is available, we’ve not got that far down the road yet, but for a place like this, if we were going to be a third down, it would be substantial.”

Charlotte Mayes, a veterinarian who lives nearby on Clippings Green and used to tend to Mr Smith’s cattle, said: “Anything that stresses a dairy cow will affect milk yield and conception rates as well.

“The impact of infrasound and shadow flicker have been researched much more in New Zealand, where there are more wind turbines, and the effects on the productivity of dairy cows is well documented.”

An objection has also been registered by Norwich International Airport, which says the proposed turbine would have a clear line of sight from the airport’s primary surveillance radar (PSR) and would therefore be likely to show a return identical to an aircraft.

A letter from the airport’s safeguarding co-ordinator says an Aviation Operational Impact Assessment on the proposal is under way, in consultation with the developer, but until it is completed the proposal could only be considered “with regard to overall aviation safety”.

On that basis, the letter says: “We find that it conflicts with national and international safeguarding requirements and that it presents a hazard to the safe operation of aircraft in the vicinity of Norwich International Airport.”

According to a planning statement, submitted by EDP’s agent Turley, the landowner – who runs the Dereham-based agricultural business Bunting and Sons – would lease an area of the site to the energy firm, who will fund the wind turbine if permission is granted.

The statement says: “Assessment work has demonstrated that the effects of the development will generally be of a low level, with very few significant effects, all of which are time limited due to the temporary nature of the wind turbine development which is to be limited to 25 years.

“The scale of these effects is considered to be substantially outweighed by the development’s benefits. The development will provide up to 500kW of clean, renewable energy, making a valuable contribution to Breckland’s renewable energy provision.”

The planning statement also says assessments had confirmed “that the development will not have unacceptable impacts as a result of shadow flicker”. It says: “Should shadow flicker become a concern, modern wind turbines can be controlled at the periods when shadow flicker has the potential to occur and can be inhibited for those properties affected for the specific times of day and on specific days of the year when shadow flicker can occur.”

Despite the concerns over nature and wildlife, there have been no objection from the Environment Agency, from Breckland’s ecological and biodiversity consultant, or from Natural England which says there is “not likely to have a significant effect” on areas including the Badley Moor Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

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