The Withiel Wind Turbine Action Group met in the Village Hall after the Parish Council meeting on Wednesday December 7th with the objective of planning tactics, notably for the meeting with Dan Rogerson MP on December 16th. Once again some 50 people attended, about one third of the population of the village. Also present were the area’s County Councillor Mick Martin and Mr Danny Mageean of the Cornwall Windfarm Action Alliance. The meeting was chaired by Simon Coy.
Patrick Malone set out the bones of the discussion document prepared for the meeting with Dan Rogerson; it had previously been circulated by email so it wasn’t necessary to go through it in detail. He added a few details of the Localism Act, which might possibly give local people more say over developments of this nature – something that was being pursued with Cornwall Council. Wind turbines need to be classed as new businesses; they are not adjuncts to farming or housing but are simply designed to profit from subsidies for wind power generation. The Act specifically says parish councils or neighbourhood forums should have a say in where new houses, businesses and shops should go. There should be a clear differentiation, he said, between schemes to provide electricity for local need and those designed solely to profit from Feed-In Tariffs.
Simon Coy commented on the “fly-built windmill” at Callywith which had appeared in the night and suggested it might work in our favour as people realised the horrendous impact that the spread of these monsters will have. He also suggested that placing them close to houses was unwise and said that people might like to look up ‘Wind Turbine Disasters’ on YouTube and decide how close they’d like to live to these things.
He also commented that the visual impact assessment for the Tregustick turbine amounted to “20 pages of formulaic rubbish” which had little bearing on reality. It had been contrived to put the best gloss on the situation, whereas the reality was that standing in St Clements Churchyard the skyline would be dominated by the six gigantic turbines on St Breock Downs and the three Tregustick and Higher Tregawne turbines. “The view from Withiel is one of the finest in North Cornwall and we are about to destroy it,” he said.
The question of why Cornwall was uniquely afflicted was discussed. Patrick Malone said he had driven down from Dorchester and hadn’t seen a single turbine until he crossed the Tamar. Simon Coy wondered why there were no turbines on the South Downs and suggested it might be useful to stick one on top of Big Ben, where the power was needed, rather than in faraway Cornwall where the transmission loss was greater.
Danny Mageaan said his organisation was an amalgamation of nine communities which had fought wind farm proposals and had picked up some expertise along the way. They had successfully stopped the massive Davidstow development on the side of Rough Tor. Some months ago they had identified an influx of applications for single turbines as a new danger. “Now there are hundreds,” he said.
“This is an extremely divisive issue and it’s difficult to deal with,” he said. “The question is impact assessments is an open one. Council planners have said that for towers less than 80 metres tall they don’t even require an impact assessment. There is a need to form a very strong group who will fight this, because people tend to accept the claims of the wind power companies at face value and there’s a lot of apathy.”
Mr Mageean said visual impact assessments were done by professionals and, like statistics, could be adapted to make any case. Unfortunately it was not open to any member of the public to challenge developers’ assessments; only a qualified landscape architect with letters after his name could do so, and that meant spending money.
“This is not a level playing field because companies will spend large sums of money to get their way, and residents can rarely afford to take them on,” he said. “We must hold Cornwall Council to account on this.”
Councillor Mick Martin said Cornwall Council had looked on wind turbines as something which brought investment and jobs to Cornwall, and it was questionable whether they actually did that. He urged that everyone who objected to the three applications write to the Council registering their objections.
Anne Cardew lamented the fact that geothermal energy, for which Cornwall was ideally placed, had been abandoned and the research money diverted to Scotland. She suggested Cornwall could benefit from Thorium nuclear reactors which were safe and used elements available in Cornwall. Janet Shearer suggested that Withiel formulate a scheme for producing its own renewable energy in a non-environmentally destructive way, and several others in the audience took up the theme. Suggestions included small-scale wind turbines, heat pumps, hydro energy and domestic solar. A sub-group led by Richard Thomas will establish what is feasible in this regard.
The applications for wind turbines will probably go to the planning committee in January or February; Mick Martin will provide ample advance notice.