Monday, 1 October 2012

Silton Enquiry Concludes

THE public inquiry into Ecotricity’s appeal for four giant wind turbines on land at Silton ended at Sturminster Newton on Thursday – with the news that the inspector, Neil Pope, would announce his decision “not later than the week of 19th November.”

This comparatively fast decision will follow four weeks of evidence spread across February, March and September.

Plans for the 120-metre turbines were rejected by the authority in March after a planning meeting that lasted more than six hours. The application received more than 1,700 letters of objection and only one member of the public spoke in favour of the plans at the meeting in Gillingham's Riversmeet Leisure Centre.

Ecotricity says it has lodged an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate because it believes Dorset is lagging behind the rest of the country when it comes to green energy provision. The business claims that the Silton wind park would generate enough energy to power more than 6,700 homes and save around 10,000 tonnes of CO2 going into the atmosphere each year for a quarter of a century.

The planning application was rejected by every parish council in the area, by South Somerset District Council and by the Wiltshire Unitary Council before being rejected by North Dorset District Council. It followed an unsuccessful application in 2009 to build six turbines on the same site.

Ecotricity's proposals led to the formation of local action group Save Our Silton, which coordinated a high profile campaign against the plans.

"The visual impact is huge. The local area depends on tourism to a large extent. These turbines should not be plonked on such a tranquil site."

Ecotricity spokesman Mike Cheshire said: "We are appealing the decision because this wind park, with just four graceful windmills, would be the very first in Dorset and would boost the county's existing green energy resource by almost 50 per cent at a stroke.

"The majority of Dorset people say they support wind power, but action needs to match words if the county genuinely wants to play its part in creating safer, cleaner sources of energy for itself and future generations. We can't allow where our energy comes from to continue to be decided by whoever shouts the loudest.

Ecotricity, the Stroud based renewable energy company, was represented by David Hardy, a dually-qualified barrister and solicitor and partner in the leading renewables-supporting Leeds based firm Eversheds.

The other main parties are North Dorset District Council, which refused the applicaiton, Save our Silton, a group of local residents who oppose the scheme, and fellow opponents The Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, represented by our Landscape Advisor Richard Burden.

Barrister and Save Our Silton member John Jones said his objections were mainly on landscape grounds as are the objections from CCWWD AONB.

The land on which the four turbines were planned is 433 feet above sea level – one of the highest points in the Blackmore Vale. The turbines are 393ft high and would be visible from a wide surrounding area. Salisbury Cathedral, which is 404 ft to the highest point, is in a bowl of hills.

For Roger Weeks, a local resident commented, “We do not inherit the planet from our parents, we borrow it from our children,” he said. “We need to ask ourselves if we can justify this legacy to our future generations.”

We will comment further on this when Richard Burden returns to the office later this week.  If you would like to comment further please do get in touch with the office.