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Here come the wind turbines
December 2004: The 'industrialisation' of our countryside begins....the picture that confirms campaigners' worst fears about the "industrialisation" of the Westcountry countryside with wind turbines.

The desecration of a farming landscape

Turbine plan cut value of our home by a third


 
HERE COME THE WIND TURBINES
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11:00 - 09 December 2004
This is the picture that confirms campaigners' worst fears about the "industrialisation" of the Westcountry countryside with wind turbines.

The construction site for Devon's first windfarm at Bradworthy reveals the huge scale of the work and its effects on the landscape.

It will take nine transporter journeys to get the turbine towers and blades to the site.

The development, which is expected to be completed by the end of February, has raised fears of a spate of far bigger windfarms to come. It was approved in the face of vociferous local opposition when the Government upheld a ruling by a planning inspector.

Now, other giant turbines are being considered for the South Hams beauty-spot of Goveton, land near North Tawton, Crediton and Hatherleigh, land around Fullabrook Down, near Ilfracombe. The applications have provoked outrage among local communities and environmental campaigners alike. The businessman and broadcaster Noel Edmonds, who is chairman of the Renewable Energy Foundation, has condemned what he calls the "desecration" of the natural landscape.

The world-renowned scientist and environmentalist, Professor James Lovelock, who lives near Launceston, has compared the turbines to the poet William Blake's infamous "Dark Satanic Mills".

And only this week Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of Britain's oldest conservation body, the Open Space Society, condemned the Fullabrook plan as "pernicious".

Meanwhile, two independent agricultural valuers have both concluded that since the planning application for the turbines at Goveton was submitted earlier this year, the price of one local home has dropped by 165,000 from near 500,000


THE DESECRATION OF A FARMING LANDSCAPE
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11:00 - 09 December 2004
This is the picture that reveals what campaigners call the "industrialisation" of the countryside, with Devon's first windfarm.

It shows the scale of excavations needed to create the foundations for three wind turbines within six weeks. It shows as well the transformation of agricultural land into a site of intense industrial activity.

Cows still graze in the fields nearby while trucks, tractors, diggers and cranes operate from morning until the light fails.

The development at Bradworthy is taking place in spite of impassioned protests from the local community. The world-renowned scientist, Professor James Lovelock, has compared the turbines to the poet William Blake's infamous "dark satanic mills".

As far back as last November, the broadcaster and businessman Noel Edmonds, who is chairman of the Renewable Energy Foundation, was warning that if the turbines went up here in Bradworthy, anywhere else could follow. Other sites being considered include land near North Tawton, Crediton and Hatherleigh, and Fullabrook Down near Ilfracombe.

Yesterday, that view was echoed by one of the leading campaigners against the development, Sarah Payne, who said: "I think Bradworthy was picked off. It offends me to see generations of farmland ripped up. If people come to Bradworthy and see what has happened here then they might fight harder in their own communities. If it does one good thing, it may stop the turbines going up in other place."

A German firm called Energie Kontor won permission on appeal for three 75-metre turbines at Forest Moor, outside the village. The decision was upheld by the Government in July, and Brent construction company contracted for the work.

Now, the fields are no longer recognisable and a rapid transformation is taking place.

Around 3,000 tonnes of road stone has had to be transported on to the site - 150 lorry-loads. An electricity sub-station which will connect the power supply to the grid is under construction, and work on one of the three turbine foundations is well advanced. The steel latticework on to which it will be pinned is already in place and concreting of the base is expected to start next week.

While mounds of excavated earth line the site, Brent maintains this is only temporary. As far as is possible it will be recycled or re-used at the base of the turbines. Soil removed will be used to level out the site, and only access roads will remain once the turbines are in place. A bog in a neighbouring farmer's field will be filled to create a meadow.

Elsewhere, the other two turbine sites describe the different stages of the work. At each a crater ten metres square and more than two-a-half metres deep has to be excavated, and around 300 cubic metres of soil must be removed. Each foundation requires 500 cubic metres of concrete weighing around 750 tonnes.

Then two giant cranes weighing 500 and 300 tonnes will have to be manoeuvred in parts on to the site where they will be fitted together to lift the turbines into place. Perhaps the most significant moment will come when the turbines and their blades arrive. And that will require nine journeys by transporter before the three sections of each turbines are put together.

It's a prospect that will bring to a close a deeply divisive issue for Bradworthy.

And many people, said Sarah Payne, are waiting to see what will happen then.

Will their fears about noise be confirmed or allayed? How intrusive will be those turbines? How well will they work? And what will be the effects on the value of their properties?

Marie Hutchings, 74, who lives 530 metres from the nearest turbine point, fears the worst. She is worried that if she moves to live with relatives elsewhere in the country, she could have problems selling her house.

"I'm not too happy to move, I've lived here for 18 years," she said. "But I fear it will be a blot, it will be totally invasive of the view. As for the noise, I think the people in Bradworthy itself could be worst affected by the noise if it is carried on the wind."

What may worry others campaigning elsewhere is that Bradworthy could be dwarfed by the next windfarms. The Bradworthy site described in the WMN pictures is small compared to those proposed elsewhere.

The land around Fullabrook Down, as one example, has been targeted for 22 of the 360-ft turbines - the giants of this new generation of the machinery - over a vast expanse of landscape.

Jamie Mathlin, electrical engineer for Brent at the site, and a director of North Devon Chamber of Commerce, yesterday emphasised the importance of what was happening in the promotion of renewable energy. He said the turbines would be unobtrusive, would not be noisy, and would perform a vital role in the generation of electricity.

"North Devon does not have any electricity generation at present, it has to be brought in from the north, so we have to do this. Wind is here and it works. This is for the common good. We don't have time to wait for the other renewables if we are to cut carbon emissions," said Mr Mathlin. "Think of it is as a step in that direction."

He insisted the turbines were efficient and would be turning for around 95 per cent of the time.

He also pointed to the economic benefits of a company such as Brent, which has a base in Bodmin, taking on the work. That meant steel-workers, engineers, electricians, construction workers and equipment operators all bringing money into the local economy.

But the local picture yesterday seemed at odds with the bigger scenarios. As the diggers were manoeuvring around the Bradworthy site, moulding the earth in readiness for the apparatus of green energy, the Environment Minister Margaret Beckett was forced to admit the Government's overall strategy was well off target.

It had promised to reduced 1990 levels of greenhouse gases by 20 per cent by 2010.

The reduction at present stood at around 7.5 per cent. The big culprit? Increased road traffic.

More than a few people might today be looking at Bradworthy and asking - what is this for and will we be next?

nyoung@westernmorningnews.co.uk