Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Latest Spaldington wind farm company is prepared to listen
Last Friday a first informal meeting was held between the latest Spaldington wind farm applicant RWE nPower Renewables, Spaldington Parish Councillors and Howdenshire ERYC Councillors Paul Robinson and Nick Evans, regarding the plans to build an 8 x 126m wind turbine farm north east of Spaldington village in an area called River Valley. A similar meeting had been held for HOSM and Foggathorpe Parish Councillors the previous evening.
(map above shows proposed wind farm in black along with the other consented wind farms in the area - shaded areas show 2km radius of each)
I had been in contact with the company’s Project Developer Nicola Bell from almost as soon as I heard about their plans, and I had been critical of their operation and the way that they were being viewed as cynically picking over the carcass of the failed Spaldington Common wind farm application thrown out by the planning inspector at appeal. I urged them to talk to the communities at the earliest opportunity and certainly before their plans were anywhere advanced, something almost all wind farm developers fail to do.
At the meeting it was refreshing to meet with a great deal of openness from Nicola and her team, some contrition for putting in the anemometer mast just before Christmas, and a willingness to listen and take on the views of the residents. They confirmed that after considering the appeal decisions to approve the Spaldington Airfield site but refuse the Common site they considered that their site was viable.
The proximity of the proposed turbines had obviously been considered by the applicant and they were able to confirm that they had no plans to site turbines closer than 750m to any residential property, and that their initial layout was not fixed and was expected to evolve after feedback from the Council, residents and other consultees. It was accepted that the proximity of turbines to residences was the most contentious issue with the previous two Spaldington applications.
The issue of access for construction traffic and turbine parts was also discussed, and RWE confirmed that whilst the main site access would be from the A614 at Welham Bridge, lorries carrying the materials needed to build the southern buttress for a new bridge over the River Foulness and stone for the track leading to the Spaldington side of the bridge would come through Spaldington village. It was pointed out that if there were no turbines on the Spaldington side of the river then RWE would not need to build a bridge and the considerable disruption to residents on Spaldington Main Street from the construction lorries could be avoided
The company seemed willing to listen to criticism and showed a willingness to change, and importantly understood why Spaldington people are so cynical due to how they have been treated by previous wind farm companies.
The message from the Spaldington Parish Councillors was quite clear in that RWE nPower Renewables need to understand that this is a rural area and residents value their peace and quiet and landscape. RWE acknowledged that they did not expect support from the community, but their best hope was to engage residents, have an open door policy, take points on board, listen to objections and communicate with people.
It is hoped further meetings will be held before a public exhibition in June with the planning application being submitted later in the year.
The Parish Councillors pointed out to RWE that their introductory letter stating that “Spaldington is almost 2km away” was inaccurate and misleading as in reality all houses on Spaldington Main Street and village centre are closer than 2km and some properties in the parish are only 800m – 1km from the closest turbine. RWE agreed to send out another letter clarifying the distances involved.
I concluded by stating that if other wind farm developers had been as proactive as we saw at this meeting, then we would have seen much less grief for the community over the past few years.
I feel RWE were a little taken aback at the research Parish Councillors had done. It remains to be seen whether RWEs offer to “work with the community” and “design a wind farm that is suitable for the area” amounts to more than just words - I sincerley hope it does!