Councillors left with "no choice" but to approve mast plans
PUBLISHED: 08:35 04 April 2014 | UPDATED: 08:35 04 April 2014
Councillors admitted they were left with little choice but to approve a renewable energy firm's controversial plans to erect a 60m high anemometer near Haddenham.
Despite impassioned pleas from neighbours of Berry Fen, where the mast will be erected, East Cambridgeshire District Council’s planning committee said it could find no sound planning reason to refuse the proposal.
As such, REG Windpower’s plan was passed seven votes to one, with only Isleham councillor Derek Beckett voting to refuse the application.
Haddenham councillor Gareth Wilson said: “We haven’t got any statutory body that is saying that this is going to be a real problem for airfields or for bats and birds.
“We may feel that the odd swan might be affected by these things but we have asked the experts on this subject and they all say there isn’t a problem so we can’t assume there will be.
“If we refuse something that is then approved by a planning inspector because we haven’t followed the rules, we will have to pay the costs. We have to protect the tax payer.”
And Cllr Mike Rouse added: “I think that if any of the consultees had come out and said ‘don’t touch it’ then we would have had some grounds to refuse but everybody has been consulted and nobody appears to have objected to this. I don’t see grounds for us to refuse.”
Campaigners opposed to the plans, and the anticipated wind farm, have vowed to keep fighting despite their defeat.
The anemometer, to be located in Berry Fen, will be used by REG to gather data on wind speed before it submits a further application for four huge wind turbines.
A local campaign group has inundated the district council with objections, more than 170 in writing, and MP Sir Jim Paice and Haddenham councillor Bill Hunt have also spoken out against the plans.
The application did also receive almost 40 letters in support.
But, despite their objections, council planning officer Penelope Mills said there were insufficient grounds to refuse this stage of the plans.
An application for four wind turbines is expected to follow next year.