On Wednesday 15th July a public meeting took place at Sulgrave Manor, to discuss the proposal to construct a wind farm in the countryside between Sulgrave and Weston. (See here for details of this proposal, including photo montages and maps). Approximately 120 people attended.
The meeting was called by the Parish Council, whose members and advisers had put in a great deal of work in establishing the details of the proposal and the probable implications for the village.
Chairman of the Parish Council, Graham Roberts, welcomed everyone, gave a general description of the proposal and set out the agenda for the evening. He said that the developers, Enertrag UK Ltd had been invited but had declined to send a representative. However, they had sent a letter setting out the latest position, which he read out to the meeting and which can be seen here.
The Chairman also drew the meeting’s attention to various exhibition stands which had been erected in the hall: one with photographs and leaflets from Enertrag UK and Greenpeace; one setting out the views of the Northamptonshire Section of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England; and one showing photo montages of the probable visual impact of the proposed turbines in the landscape around the village.
The village’s Campaign for the Protection of Rural England representative then explained the views of that organisation in respect of wind turbines in Northamptonshire generally. He worked through a number of illustrations prepared by the CPRE’s wind farm adviser, which concluded that in this part of the country wind farms simply did not deliver the carbon saving generation of electricity which was claimed for them. Appropriate extracts from this presentation can be seen here.
Projected images detailing the probable visual impact of the nine turbines on the landscape around the village were then shown, with an explanation of the methodology employed in their preparation with particular regard to the need to avoid exaggeration. See here for these photographs with details of the viewpoints from which they were taken.
The planning officer who is dealing with the project for the local planning authority, South Northamptonhsire District Council, then set out the current status of the project from the Council’s point of view and outlined the planning process which would be followed. He confirmed that a “scoping request” had been received from Enertrag UK and a “scoping opinion” was being prepared by the Council. Through this mechanism agreement will be reached on the scope of the Environmental Assessment which Enertrag will then carry out, so as to produce the Environmental Assessment Statement which has to accompany the actual planning application for the project as and when this is made. He expected that this would probably take about a year. When the application has been received by the Council, consultations will take place with all affected parties and interested organisations. These will include Sulgrave Parish Council and at that stage the parish councillors will collectively decide on a view to be submitted to the South Northants Council. This process would probably take some months and when all the necessary information was to hand the planning officers would report to the South Northamptonshire Council Planning Committee, recommending either 1. that the application be approved, 2. that the application be approved with conditions or 3. that the application be refused. In the event of a recommendation for refusal, the officers would need to supply the Committee with sustainable reasons for that refusal. In the event of a refusal it was likely that Enertrag would lodge an appeal and it was almost certain that this appeal would be determined by an inquiry heard by a government Inspector. He would weigh the evidence and make recommendations to the Secretary of State (for Communications and Local Government) who would make the final decision.
The chairman then invited those present to ask questions or to give their views on the project.
A member of the Sulgrave Manor Board, said that he was appalled at the visual impact of the proposed turbines on the landscape setting of the Manor, with nine 130 metres turbines, the nearest of which would be only 850 metres from the Manor. The Manor Board would most certainly object to the proposal.
A good deal of concern was expressed by a number of speakers as to the effect of the turbines on horses and their riders. It was estimated that there are at least fifty horses in the village and a resident who runs a stables in Sulgrave said that it would be impossible to ride safely anywhere near the turbines and the proposal would affect his business very badly indeed.
Other speakers emphasised their concern as to the proximity of the turbines to the village itself, and to the local minor roads, bridleways and footpaths. One individual said that the turbines he had seen were largely on moorland and other areas remote from habitations and he asked if there was a precedent for nine turbines being located so close to two small villages. The chairman said that he would look into this matter and try to provide an answer in due course.
There was a good deal of puzzlement as to why the Sulgrave/Weston area had been chosen as a wind farm site in an area not apparently particularly windy and certainly lacking in any infrastructure to support such a large enterprise. The best answer which could be given was that the developers seemed to have no special locational criteria and were content to plan wind farms wherever they could reach a financial agreement with the land owner.
A lifetime resident of the village then gave his views, saying that the proposal should be resisted as vigorously as possible since it would be a completely out of scale intrusion into the local unspoilt landscape, with no tangible benefits to the community and a negligible contribution to the cause of carbon saving electricity generation. This resident has given permission for full details of his views to be included in this report and they can be seen here.
The chairman then called for a show of hands. All those opposed to the construction of the Sulgrave/Weston wind farm were asked to raise their hands and almost everyone present did so. He then asked for those supporting the project to raise their hands and two persons did so.
In concluding the meeting, the Chairman said that the Parish Council had now done everything it could to present the facts to the parishioners in as unbiased way as possible. The next formal action by the Parish Council would be in commenting on the planning application as and when it is made to the South Northamptonshire Council. Since the mood of the meeting was clearly to oppose the project, it would be up to the community to form an action group which could take all the necessary steps to structure that opposition throughout the various stages from the scoping report, to the planning application and to the public inquiry which was likely to follow.
Further developments will be reported upon in this website. Views are welcomed and will be passed on to any Action Committee which might be formed.