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Wind turbine victory: We’ve struck a blow for freedom to preserve our village life

April 16, 2013
MASTER OF CEREMONIES: St Andrew's Church spire, one of the tallest village steeples in England, could be dwarfed by the 334ft-high wind turbines

MASTER OF CEREMONIES: St Andrew’s Church spire, one of the tallest village steeples in England, would have been dwarfed by the 334ft-high wind turbines

WELL, we huffed and we puffed and finally blew down the plans to build two towering wind turbines that would have dwarfed the dreamy spire of St Andrew’s Church in Clifton Campville.

That edifice – one of the tallest village steeples in the country – has stood guard over our countryside vista for more than 800 years.

Now the residents of villages surrounding the controversial proposals to erect the 334ft turbines at Hogs Hill on land at the back of Main Road, Haunton, can breathe more easily in our battle to preserve the idyllic peace and beauty of a place mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.

Lichfield District council planners backed an officer’s recommendation to refuse the controversial plan by German company Prowind to build on land belonging to Haunton farmer and West Midlands Liberal Democrat MEP Phil Bennion.

They would have blighted the villages of Haunton, Harlaston and Clifton Campville – and further afield.

wind 001 DSC_0002So I was very proud of our community and more than 50 residents who turned up to the planning meeting and especially Nigel Tongue who spoke against the plans.

The planning committee supported the officers recommendation to refuse the scheme.

It is good news for the people of Haunton, Clifton and Harlaston, but of course it could go to appeal.

I have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the neighbours of Liberal-Democrat MEP Phil Bennion in opposing this ill-advised application on his land. Putting politics aside, first and foremost as a villager dweller myself and lover of the countryside I wanted rid of this proposed damned spot on our precious landscape.

Council officers had recommended the committee turn down the application, saying the giant bladed 500mw turbines would be an “unacceptable visual intrusion in the local landscape”, harming the character and appearance of the countryside.

A report to the committee said that the scale of the application would cause “substantial harm” to 18th century farmhouse Dunnimere Farm and four barn conversions, dwarf the 305ft-high St Andrew’s spire and have a detrimental affect on the character and setting of listed buildings and other heritage assets as far afield as the National Memorial Arboretum and Lichfield Cathedral.

A total of 167 letters of objection were received. On one side of Main Road in Haunton, the SNAP posters (Say No And Protest) dominate the verges – directly opposite Haunton Manor Farm, the home of where residents have been directing much of their anger for the past three years.

This fight has brought together not just the affronted villagers on the Staffordshire borders from the outskirts of Haunton through Clifton Campville, Edingale, Harlaston, Whittington, Alrewas, Chilcote, Coton in the Elms to Newton Regis but seen the Anglican and Catholic religions unusually join forces in opposition.

MeaseValley’s Anglican rector, the Rev Garry Thompson, who looks after the grade 1-listed St Andrew’s Church in Clifton, said: “Aside from the fact that they blight the countryside, I’m not convinced that wind turbines produce adequate amounts of power for the upset they generate.”

Meanwhile Sister Anne Marie Eden, speaking for the Catholic order of St Joseph’s in Haunton, said that people come to the convent for quiet tranquility.

She asked: “What is going to happen if we do not fight for our countryside? We need beautiful natural things to look at.”

Villagers have been fighting the threat of wind farm proliferation since June 2010 when a proposal for four turbines was submitted but later withdrawn – leaving an estimated £90,000 administration bill for local council taxpayers to pay.

Hundreds of villagers, supported by myself and outgoing county councillor Matthew Ellis, have packed protest meetings in the area and signed a petition to halt the threat of giant turbines dominating the skyline. They even had to pay £2,500 out of their own pockets to commission RSK Consulting for a detailed report to challenge the validity of the application.

Mr Bennion said that he felt strongly about the need for renewable energy sources.

“Everybody feels strongly about their own landscape, I do,” he said.

“But you have to understand that while it is an area of natural beauty it’s not a national park and we have the wind speeds, we have the open space.

“It seems to me that if my area is not suitable, I can’t see how anywhere is. I’ve been aware of the need for renewable energy for the last 20 years and have already been working towards that.”

He added: “I grow a biomass crop, which supplies energy to my property. It’s not just business.”

SueArnold newPutting politics aside, first and foremost as a villager dweller myself and lover of the countryside I wanted rid of this proposed damned spot on our precious landscape. It is good news for the people of Haunton, Clifton and Harlaston.

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