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Wind farm meeting

Local residents pack the Acton Bridge Parish Room.
On the right, Mr Ellison (VRBC), Mr Bellis (Tegni) and Dr Trevelyan (Dulas). The Parish Council is off-camera.

Update 6. September 2005 :

Acton Bridge Parish Council started its 5. September meeting half an hour earlier than usual, to allow for a presentation by the Aston Grange wind farm developer, Tegni Cymru Cyf, and a question and answer session. Between 40 and 50 local people packed the Parish Room to see a display of material and take part in the discussion. This excellent public turnout reinforced the Parish Council's determination to present a fully informed response to the Borough Council in respect of the Planning Application (05-1059-FUM).

Parish Council Chairman Robert Holt introduced the three speakers, Mr Richard Ellison (Head of Planning and Building Control, VRBC), Mr Keith Bellis, of Tegni Cymru Cyf, and Dr Conrad Trevelyan, of Dulas Ltd, a consultant to Tegni and author of much of the data accompanying the planning submissions.

Mr Ellison outlined the planning context, and pointed out that the proposal was in the Green Belt, and hence by definition 'inappropriate' and 'harmful'. The developer would have to show 'very special circumstances' to justify overturning the presumption against such development. Mr Ellison emphasised the importance of public participation in the planning process, and said that despite the request for initial submissions by 1. September, the matter would not go before the Planning Committee before December. There was still plenty of time for people to contact him or the Case Officer, Adrian Crowther, at the Borough Council to discuss the application and express their concerns, which must be in writing (letter or e-mail). This evening's meeting was one of several planned events in the neighbouring villages.

Since the proposed development is contrary to national policy in respect of the Green Belt, and local policy in respect of Vale Royal's Local Plan, the application would automatically go to a Public Inquiry if the Borough Council were to grant permission. On the other hand, if VRBC were to refuse planning permission, the developer could appeal (in which case there would also be a Public Inquiry), or make another application elsewhere.

In answer to a question, Mr Ellison confirmed that the statutory approval of Liverpool Airport had still not been obtained, and that there were serious concerns about the effects on Radar and hence on aircraft safety. Although the developer had offered some technical mitigation, the Airport had yet to be convinced. Liverpool Airport had told Mr Ellison that were VRBC to refuse planning permission on those grounds, Liverpool Airport would be happy to accompany them to a Public Inquiry. There were also concerns about the proximity of the West Coast Main Line Railway (WCML).

The Borough Council was in the process of commissioning outside consultants of its own to carry out a three-stage assessment of the borough regarding landscape character and its ability to accommodate renewable energy developments. Mr Ellison hope that the results of this consultancy would inform consideration of the present application.

Mr Bellis of Tegni Cymru Cyf spoke about the issues of climate change, and the target for renewable energy in Cheshire. The Aston site would represent 39% of the county's target for renewable generation and had been chosen for ease of access, grid connection, low ecological impact and 'decent' wind speed of 6 to 6.3 metres per second (say 14 mph). Tegni tried to avoid Designated Areas [such as Green Belt, ASLEV etc], but constraints were to be found everywhere. Details of Tegni's selection process were available on the VRBC website.

There followed over a dozen specific questions from Parish Councillors and the floor, and these were answered by the three expert visitors as appropriate. Among the topics raised were visual impact, noise, choice of site (including wind speed issues, and the obvious alternatives such as the banks of the Mersey), and proximity to housing. One resident asked whether Aston Grange had been seen as a soft target, to which Mr Bellis replied that the selection process favoured what he described as 'low-hanging fruit'.

The technical and economic aspects of wind farms, connection to the Grid, alternative forms of renewable electricity generation, and the relative cost of electricity generated from wind power compared with fossil fuels were also covered in some detail.

There was a vigorous discussion of public safety in the event of a blade flying off and landing on a passer-by, or even on the WCML. Blades and other parts have been thrown several hundred metres in the past, but Dr Trevelyan of Dulas said that the industry had a good safety record. He and Mr Bellis told the meeting they had not heard about the catastrophic failures at the Nordex and Vestas sites until they read about them on the Acton Bridge website (see links below).

Several people were concerned that the visual impact on the Weaver Valley had been understated in the planning submission, and that the turbines would be very conspicuous, and a blot on one of the few remaining unspoilt parts of north Cheshire.

The Chairman thanked the expert visitors and the many local residents for their participation, and closed the public meeting so that the Parish Council could resume its regular Agenda.

Acton Bridge Parish Council had already made its interim response to VRBC in time for their 1. September deadline, but will continue its consultation and research. In view of some of the points raised this evening, a further submission is likely to follow in due course.

On other pages :
Questions and Answers from the Aston School meeting in March 2005;

Alarming reports of what can go wrong;
Links to other campaigns and information;
Main wind farm page;
Parish Council pages.

Offsite links :
These should open a new browser window, and we are not responsible for their content)...

VRBC Website with documents relating to the Aston Grange proposal (reference 05-1059-FUM)
Stop Aston Windfarm campaign
Ch-ART campaign against the development at Oxheys Farm near Rushton / Tarporley.

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