By Patrick Sawer
Copyright Sunday Telegraph 4th Nov 2012
IT is a landscape of open vistas stretching for miles beneath leaden skies, its fields and wetlands dotted with isolated villages.
But a swathe of Lincolnshire’s countryside is under threat from dozens of massive wind turbines set to be erected across the county, campaigners claim.
Applications to build another 112 turbines are in the pipeline, on top of the 84 already built and 41 more which have been given planning permission.
In the district of East Lindsey alone there are already 41 turbines in operation, with another 50 at the planning stage – including one application to erect eight turbines, each one 377ft high and taller than St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Newton Marsh wind farm would be built by the energy company ASC Renewables within only one and a half miles of the village of Tetney.
Melvin Grosvenor, of the Marsh Wind Farm Action Group, said: “We are facing an invasion of turbines which will industrialise the rural landscape of Lincolnshire. The impact on a flat county such as ours will be particularly dramatic as these monstrous structures are visible for miles, in some cases up to 30 miles away.
“We have become hostage to planning inspectors and ridiculously flawed government policies which are promoting flawed technology.”
Campaigners fear that last week’s promise by John Hayes, the Conservative energy minister, of a moratorium on future wind farm applications comes too late to prevent the ravaging of Lincolnshire’s landscape. Almost 4,000 turbines are scheduled to be built across Britain over the next few years, to add to the 3,800 already in operation. Mr Hayes said that only a minority of these were likely to be given the go-ahead.
Campaigners point out that although around half of applications for new wind farms are refused by local councils, energy companies often win on appeal to the planning inspectorate.
Industry figures published last week show approvals for onshore wind farms have risen to record levels, despite opposition from critics who claim they are inefficient and blight some of the nation’s best-loved views.
Renewable UK found that the overall capacity approved at the planning stage increased by nearly 50 per cent, with 110 schemes agreed, providing up to 1.7 gigawatts of new capacity. In comparison, 1.1GW of capacity was approved in 2010/11.
Hundreds of residents gathered at Tetney village hall last Saturday to voice their opposition to the proposed Newton Marsh wind farm.
Sir Peter Tapsell, father of the House of Commons and MP for Louth and Horncastle, told the meeting: “I am absolutely against it on every possible ground. They ruin our breathtakingly beautiful countryside. The people who are for these wind farms call themselves environmentalists, but nothing damages our environment more than a line of these ghastly turbines.”
Brian Lovesay, 75, a retired farmer who lives close to the Newton Marsh wind farm site, said: “The turbines will be clearly visible for miles around here, and what’s more you’ll be able to hear them humming at night. They are an eyesore. I’ve travelled around the country quite a lot and they have become a plague, spreading everywhere.”
Objections have also been raised by Bourne Leisure, the owner of nearby Thorpe caravan holiday park, which claims that the turbines will cost the local economy thousands in lost tourism because holiday makers will be put off by the sight of the giant turbines, less than 1,000 yards from its facilities.
The turbines are to be built next to two 344ft high turbines which have already been approved and are due to be erected within weeks on land owned by Anglian Water.
There are also plans for three 370ft high turbines to be sighted a few miles away, along the Louth Canal, in North Thoresby, with seven others in the immediate area in the advanced stages of planning.
ASC Renewables claimed the Newton Marsh wind farm, and others like it throughout the county, would have “no significant impact” on the surrounding area.
Mike Denny, the firm’s operations director, said: “We have carefully considered the location of the wind farm by placing it next to an existing scheme. We have done two years’ worth of ecological and environmental studies and through that we have established there will be no significant effects other than some visual impact.”
ASC said the noise generated by its turbines would be “significantly below” the maximum set by national planning guidelines of five decibels above the prevailing background level, or 35-40 decibels in particularly quiet areas, and that the wind farm would generate £6 million to £8 million for the local economy. It said the proposed wind farm would generate enough electricity to power up to 11,770 homes.
“Onshore wind farms are not the entire answer but fossil fuels are not infinite and we have to move away and evolve from that,” said Mr Denny, adding that the firm would pay about £50,000 a year towards local community projects if the project was approved.
Wind farms are heavily subsidised by the Government to encourage the switch to renewable energy production as a way of fighting climate change.
The cost is added to household electricity bills, and although the subsidy is to be cut by 10 per cent from next year, it will still mean £38 of the average household bill will go towards renewables in 2013/14, rising to £53 in 2016/17.
Several large landowners in Lincolnshire, as well as other counties, have benefited from renting their land to wind farm companies, including the father of David Cameron’s wife Samantha. Sir Reginald Sheffield earns an estimated £350,000 a year from the eight turbines sited on his 3,000-acre Normanby Hall estate, near Scunthorpe.