T he controversial application to erect an industrial windfarm at Woolfox, near Clipsham and Stretton is likely to be determined by the council planning committee shortly.
I have been vehemently opposed to the proposal to install turbines at the site ever since it first reared its head under a different applicant all the way back in 2011. Things have moved on a lot since then, but my fundamental view that Woolfox is entirely the wrong location for such a large scale project remains.
I have been hugely impressed by the tenacious and sustained campaign group that local residents have formed in order to oppose the application. I have worked closely with the Woolfox Windfarm Action Group and supported their campaign to harness local opposition to the turbines. As is often the case with these sorts of groups, its members often end up extremely well-informed about wind farms and planning.
Their approach stands in contrast to the applicants. I have long called on them to fly a blimp at the site to demonstrate to residents exactly what the visual impact of the proposed turbines would be. Indeed, I have previously asked the Energy Secretary to consider making flying a blimp a compulsory requirement for all wind farm applicants, given people have so little faith in computer mock ups.
Now, at the eleventh hour, the applicant at Woolfox has committed to doing so, but will only give 24 hours’ notice. Flying a blimp at the last minute, without proper advance publicity to residents will mean that the bare minimum of people will actually be able to see the true scale of the turbines. Having cancelled one planned flight because of the weather, at the time of writing we do not yet know when the flight will be. Had the applicant listened to residents and me they could have flown a blimp in good weather months earlier, rather than in the darkness of winter. I regret that this is symptomatic of a cynical approach that undermines their professed desire for proper and open public consultation.
Many Rutlanders who have been battling wind turbine applications across the county were heartened by the announcement from the Government just after the General Election that in future planning applications for wind farms should only be approved if the site is identified as suitable for wind energy development in a Local or Neighbourhood Plan and the proposal has the backing of the local community. When taken with the news that new subsidies for onshore wind are to end from next April, these changes are a big boost to locals fighting unwanted turbines.
Of course, the current application at Woolfox has been in the system for some time, but the fact is that well-founded local opinion can and should be a significant factor in deciding whether or not to grant permission.
I am in no doubt that the vast majority of local people who live near the site are implacably opposed to the turbines, and I will continue to give them my full backing.