An energy firm that was this week refused permission to build Rutland’s first wind farm claims the decision means the county could lose out on £8.5m for the local economy.
Rutland county councillors last night (December 10) voted to reject an application by energy firm RES to build nine turbines on the old Woolfox Airfield site. They said the visual impact on neighbouring villages, historical sights and public rights of way outweighed any benefits of the scheme.
RES also has plans to build a solar farm on the site, and hoped to make a “renewable energy hub” including the turbines. But following the decision to refuse permission for the wind farm, the company claims the council has been “incredibly short-sighted”.
Development manager at RES Chris Banks said: “We’re deeply disappointed with this decision. The planning committee has not only deprived the community of a benign, well-designed renewable energy project, but also of the significant economic and community benefits which the wind farm could deliver.
“The wind farm attracted significant support from the local community and there will be a lot of people in Rutland who do not believe that this negative decision reflects their views.”
Although RES claimed it had support from Rutland residents, the wind farm plans attracted plenty of vocal opposition as well. The Woolfox Wind Farm Action Group was set up by residents of nearby Stretton, Clipsham and Pickworth to fight the proposal.
According to RES the economic benefits for Rutland associated with the nine turbines at the proposed Woolfox wind farm could have been close to £8.5m over the its lifetime. Based on spend at previous sites, RES said it anticipated that a nine turbine scheme would put about £2.5m into the county economy. In addition, the wind farm would have paid annual business rates to Rutland County Council of about £241,500, which could have been fully retained and reinvested in the area.
The company said the potential economic opportunities associated with the wind farm were distinct from, and in addition to, the £2m in voluntary community benefits that the project offered. These benefits would have included an annual community benefit fund of at least £32,400 per year to support local projects, and RES’ local electricity discount scheme, through which properties up to 2.3km from the turbines could claim a £200 annual discount off their electricity bills.
Mr Banks said: “At this time of international calls to be tackling climate change it seems incredulous that well designed projects, which have attracted such levels of support as Woolfox has, are being turned down because of the way they look.
“As for what Woolfox can offer Rutland, the wind farm is about far more than generating cleaner electricity from a renewable and reliable resource. It is about the potential to use such a significant development to stimulate the local economy and encourage local communities to thrive – opportunities that Rutland’s planning committee have totally failed to appreciate. For a county with very little homegrown industry, this refusal seems incredibly short-sighted.”
RES said it would take time to study the formal reasons for refusal before deciding whether or not to challenge the planning committee’s decision.