Storm over windfarm plans

Karen Collins, of WRAT (Wrightington Residents Against Turbines) Pack

Karen Collins, of WRAT (Wrightington Residents Against Turbines) Pack

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A STORM of opposition has blown up against Wigan’s first windfarm.

Green energy consultants are lining up a bid for SEVEN giant turbines on three neighbouring agricultural businesses, deep within the Wrightington greenbelt.

Now residents have called a public meeting at the parish hall on June 12, which hopes to stop the march of the massive machines in their tracks.

Flyers have been posted through virtually every letterbox in the village and they hope to form an action group and elect officials.

The three independent schemes would make each dairy and arable farm electrically self-sufficient – but also provide the farmers with a healthy financial surplus by feeding extra power into the National Grid, triggering the Government’s generous feed-in tariff.

Each of the turbines will be, at 75ft high, more than two-and-a-half times the size of an average house and will generate, at maximum revolutions, 11 kilowatts of power.

West Lancashire District Council recently met to agree a pre-planning stance that the first three turbines, planned for Stoneleach Farm off Toogood Lane, will not need an environmental impact assessment.

Two other farms in Tunley Lane are now said to be considering twin turbine schemes.

And now residents are bracing themselves for a full planning application, complete with the all-important landscape screening details, to be submitted to councillors.

A spokesman for the residents Karen Collins, who lives in Church Lane, insisted that their protests weren’t nimbyism.

But she said it came from the pride residents had in their “very beautiful village” and they are determined to keep industrial structures restricted to industrial zones.

Although they won a battle against a small scheme at Raby Fold Farm last year, they acknowledge that this is a “much bigger threat” to the countryside vista they currently enjoy.

She has already set up a website at www.saveourlandscape.webstarts.com

Mrs Collins, a partner in an industrial estate based waste handling business, said: “We are concerned that there will be more and more applications as farmers are canvassed by this turbine company and similar firms, promising financial returns which, of course, with the nature of weather, cannot be guaranteed.

“It seems its just a matter of time for Wrightington to become one big windfarm unless we can fight these initial schemes.

“We need a planned approach to this and we will be working with the parish councillors and the MP to have them rejected.

“Our concern remains that once one is passed in Wrightington then the floodgates will be opened because there appears to be little or no community consultation.”

She insisted that the financial arguments for wind turbines “just don’t add up” and the electricity consumers were now paying via their power bills to fund the subsidies that make these “horrendous things” viable.

Mrs Collins said: “I’m not against green energy but why not use other more discreet options such as solar panels like Toogood Farm have done?

“What seems to have happened is that the Government has cut the tariff for solar generated energy and these new companies are being set up to follow the money being channelled to the Wind Turbine Industry.

“If it wasn’t for the subsidies, the Wind Turbines would not exist, they would not be viable, so its an outrageous situation.”

Gloucester-based MYRIAD CEG, which claims to be the largest provider of small and medium sized wind turbines in the UK with more than 200 wind power installations, was unavailable for comment.

Its website predicts an effective wind turbine system can earn farmers £60,000 to £250,000 a year from their land while “reducing the burden of increasing energy costs.”

But the farmer pressure group the Country Landowners Association said today that it welcomes Government support for small-scale renewable energy schemes, such as wind turbines.

CLA North Regional Director Dorothy Fairburn said that it was “essential” the Coalition did all it could to create “investor certainty” over feed-in tariffs (FIT).

She added: “Renewable technologies such as small-scale wind turbines deserved Government backing.

“The FIT is important but a less burdensome and more efficient planning system is needed if the UK is to meet the target of generating 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.”