THERE was delight for a pair of Chulmleigh farmers, but despair for a large crowd of concerned locals, when a planning application for a 35m high wind turbine near Chawleigh was approved.
Last Wednesday, North Devon Council’s planning committee voted by eight to four to approve the plan, which has stirred up feeling in the small communities surrounding Chulmleigh in the last year.
Daniel and Marcus Keenor, who own Mounticombe Farm, near Chawleigh, first lodged an application for a wind turbine with Mid Devon District Council more than a year ago.
After consultations with Mid Devon planners, they changed their plan and moved it to a site just inside North Devon Council’s boundary.
But some time after that Later, they withdrew their plan, after a neighbouring farmer had a similar application refused.
At the time they claimed they had misjudged local feeling and were withdrawing the application to avoid upsetting locals.
But the application was then re-submitted.
At Wednesday’s meeting planning officer Mike Kelly gave details of the plan to the committee’s councillors and about 80 members of the public.
An emotional Daniel Keenor then made a heartfelt plea to the committee to approve the application.
“Help me determine the future of Mounticombe Farm,” he said.
“My grandparents came to Mounticombe in the 1940s and bought the farm outright in 1957. My parents took it on and my brother Marcus and I have since done the same.
“It was my grandfather’s dream to one day have 100 cows and Marcus and I currently have a herd of 250 organic dairy cows, which scored ten out of ten in a recent examination by an organic inspector.
“But dairy farmers are in crisis with three each week going out of business, and we do not want to be the next ones to go.
“I have a wife, two daughters and a son and I want to give him a chance to farm cows at Mounticombe.”
Marcus Keenor said:made a similarly emotional case for the application. “We are not a family with a field who want to stick up a turbine and make money from the feed-in tariff, nor a farm which has been approached by an energy company, and we won’t be accepting rent and sitting back.
“What we are is a working dairy farm which needs to cut costs and cut carbon emissions using renewable energy.
“We would not be the only people to benefit from the turbine. We have an apprentice and three other staff and of last year’s £330,000 expenditure £220,000 was spent locally.
“We are just two genuine, hard working men who want to succeed.”
But the Keenors met with stiff opposition from anti-wind turbine campaigners.
About 20 members of the public stood to speak, with several reading reports or producing evidence which they claimed contradicted the evidence of the council’s planning officer.
Several claimed Mr Kelly had ignored the Pearson report, which states most of Devon is unsuitable for wind turbines.
But Mr Kelly said he had taken it into account, and had simply not attached much weight to a 20-year-old report which had been superseded.
Alan Worden, chairman of Chawleigh Parish Council, said: “The parish is not against renewable energy, but it is against siting turbines in the wrong place.”
Colonel Henry Joynson, from Chawleigh, said: “Residents of Chulmleigh and Chawleigh will be able to see this turbine. Now you’ve been led to believe public opinion is strongly against this, and indeed any other, turbine. Now you represent the community and I’d ask you to take that into account.”
Councillor Sue Croft, the local ward member, said the application should be refused on the grounds it would have an adverse impact on the landscape.
“The people of Cheldon, Chawleigh and Chulmleigh have significant concerns which have been well aired,” she said.
She also said that, with spoiled views, people who visit Chulmleigh to take in the vistas around the town will no longer visit, “leaving the town with nothing”.
But Councillor Geoff Fowler from Ilfracombe, made an amendment to the proposal, which was carried.said:
“These boys have got to make some money.
“The Mullacott Cross turbine helped save 200 jobs. This isn’t 200 jobs but it is a few and it’s the future of a family.
“And finding good planning reasons to refuse this application isn’t easy, which is why I’m recommending approval.”
Councillor Frank Biederman added: “This turbine may well spoil the countryside, but if we don’t support our farmers won’t it be spoiled anyway?”