Wind farm winners fight on to raise cash

Villagers and FenRats members celebrate victory in their war against the turbines. SG121013-120NG
Villagers and FenRats members celebrate victory in their war against the turbines. SG121013-120NG

Villagers in Sutton St Edmund have won their war against a company that wanted to put six wind turbines the height of Salisbury Cathedral at Treading Field.

A planning inspector – and now Secretary of State Eric Pickles – rejected the application for the turbines largely because of the “overwhelming” impact they would have on three homes.

Jubilant villagers are celebrating victory in a three year war against the developers, Wind Ventures Ltd.

But they are still picking themselves up from a legacy of blighted home sales, lives having to be put on hold – and paying off a £40,000 bill for lawyers and experts who represented them at a planning inquiry.

Michael Coleman, from campaign group FenRats, said: “I know you can’t compare it to being at war, but it has felt like that.

“It has been a huge strain.”

It will take villagers years to pay off the bill for the inquiry, even though the professionals represented them at cut-price rates.

Michael and wife Michelle, who chairs FenRats, say the fight against the turbines has taken over their lives – and they haven’t been able to enjoy the peace of their own garden.

Michael said: “It’s really beautiful but you constantly have the thought of ‘what would it look like with the turbines there’?”

He knows three people who wanted to move home yet simply couldn’t sell because of the turbines plan and had their lives forcibly put on hold. But he described the verdict is an immense relief.

“I guess in planning terms this is quite an upset for the wind people,” he said.

South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes, an ardent supporter of FenRats, spoke at the planning inquiry and hopes this decision will pave the way for more community victories.

He said: “This is fantastic. I am delighted – I am going to meet the FenRats soon and I want to henceforth be known as King Rat although I am more of a Fen tiger.

“Hopefully it will send a signal out to other developers and landowners that these kinds of developments are not welcome in South Holland. We are fed up to the back teeth of having these industrial turbines imposed on communities that don’t want them.”

District council planning chairman Roger Gambba-Jones says the verdict will not pave the way for more refusals as every application will be treated on its merits.

Last year, his committee risked a possible £70,000 legal bill by going against officers’ advice and refusing the Wind Ventures application for two turbines on its side of the border – the other four were refused by Fenland District Council.

Coun Gambba-Jones said: “We are pleased for the residents more than anything else and we are pleased that the decision the planning committee took has been endorsed by the planning inspector and the Secretary of State.”

Tony Fear, from the Stop West Pinchbeck Wind Farm group, says the verdict shows the Government is listening to local people.

His group is also fighting Wind Ventures and he says: “Just because you are renewables it doesn’t mean you have got carte blance to build where you like.”