community campaigning delivers results in wind farm approval

The following is taken from the Embrace my Planet website, and is a good ‘insiders’ perspective on the need to keep going on campaigns in support of wind farms.

It is easy to be put off by the “small but extremely vocal groups” who oppose wind farm developments (as the Ballarat Courier put it earlier this week). This storey from the UK is a good reminder of the need to keep going …

A stand out quote: “This was key – most people support wind farms, you just have to get out there and speak to them, encourage them to write a letter, make their views known, otherwise the small number of objectors will hog the news and make out that they are the voice of local people”.

Dorset’s first wind farm?

Excellent news reaches us from Dorset, where thanks to an effective local campaign a wind farm has been granted planning permission despite opposition from Council officers. Pete Barker and other local campaigners have been fighting for this project – Pete gives us his story below.

It was 11.30 at night and over 400 people had packed into the school hall and listened through four hours of speeches and debate. We were all now on the edges of our seats as the vote was called for.

It was the Purbeck Council’s decision night for ‘Alaska’ wind farm near Wareham in Dorset and for me the culmination (or so I hoped) of over two years of campaigning.

Late in 2007, I heard about a new project for a six turbine wind farm near my home in Wool. Helped by friends in the local Greenpeace group, we launched ‘Say Yes to Wind Power’ on a windy March day in 2008 and were immediately surprised by the amount of support we received on the streets of Wareham. This gave us the incentive to keep countering the objectors’ claims to represent local opinion and the inevitable myths that always surface.

Part way through the planning process, after hearing from Statutory Consultees, it became clear that further work was needed and the developers – Infinergy, recalled the application. Over the following year, more consultations and monitoring were completed and eventually revised plans for four turbines were submitted. More campaigning followed with lots of help from local environmentalists who had been getting involved with PEAT (Purbeck Environmental Action Team) and building support from ‘Green’ groups like East Dorset Friends of the Earth.

This was key – most people support wind farms, you just have to get out there and speak to them, encourage them to write a letter, make their views known, otherwise the small number of objectors will hog the news and make out that they are the voice of local people.

I can understand those living closest to the development having genuine concerns which should be carefully considered but then, more often than not, they let themselves down by trotting out the flawed arguments seeded by the anti-wind brigade.

So, it came to the evening of the decision. The planning officers report recommended refusal. East Dorset CPRE had called for objectors to demonstrate and expected a good turn out. Anti turbine slogans had been glued to roadsigns and our pro wind signs on sticks been removed. I wasn’t very hopeful. But, as people started to arrive, it soon became clear that most were there to support, and the demo at the door was for!

A timetable for public participation was produced and 40 speakers each limited to 3 minutes were given the opportunity to make their views known. Then the debate went over to the councillors. Some seemed to ‘get it’, some didn’t, a few obviously had already made up their minds but others had listened carefully to the speakers and a couple seemed to be arguing for it. Concerns were raised about noise to the nearest neighbours – a scout camp and a proposal emerged to approve in principle dependant on conditions regarding mitigation measures that would have to be worked out at a later date. And so, it came to the vote.

I have to concede some degree of disbelief as six hands went up for and three against. The room erupted in cheering and applause.

The conditions still have to be worked out and I feel the rug could still be pulled from under our feet but essentially the political decision had been made and we can look forward to seeing the four graceful turbines of Dorset first wind farm.

You can see the Wareham campaign site here.

Alaska wind farm, East Stoke, this is the view from Stokeford properties we are looking forward to seeing. Image: Yes 2 Wind UK

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