Feeling the draught from wind of change

Rob & Anita outside the village hall in Sancton.JPG
Rob & Anita outside the village hall in Sancton.JPG
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A wind farm has provided a picturesque village with cash for a new community asset but divided the locals. Chris Berry reports.

Moss-covered, dilapidated and derelict. Sancton Village Hall, which first opened in 1965, had become a blot on the Wolds landscape.

Its reopening last week following extensive refurbishment was like a breath of fresh air for this rural community, two miles from Market Weighton.

However there is a price the villagers have had to pay to achieve this. Some say it presages an ill wind of change which will sweep through the East Riding.

Next week, work begins in earnest on the erection of five 100-metre high wind turbines on Sancton Hill which will tower above the village. And it is money granted from the company involved with the wind farm that has enabled Sancton to reinstate their village hall.

But for some residents the £35,000 that Sancton Village Amenity Group received to bring their hall back to life is less a sweetener, more a bitter pill to swallow.

One couple who couldn’t see their way to attending the hall’s reopening were Douglas and Ann Saunders. They live on Hessleskew Lane, just outside the village.

“I quite agree that the reinstatement of the village hall is a great thing,” says Ann. “But I’m sad that it has come from blood money and I didn’t feel I could attend last week’s event as there were people from the wind farm present.

“They are ruining the Yorkshire Wolds and in particular the Wolds Way with these big, grey awful looking things we are due to see shortly. We get thousands of walkers here all through the year. I feel the Wolds Way should have been protected for future generations. We came here five years ago for the tranquil view and lovely countryside that David Hockney has immortalised.

“I think the East Riding is now seen as an easy option for wind turbines. Applications are still being put in for more wind farms even though this area has already fulfilled its quota.

“As well as the five to be erected here there are another six going on Sober Hill, near North Newbald, the next village along. To be fair East Riding Council did try to keep the Newbald one out, but once that had been passed they couldn’t see anything but the inevitability of this one being granted.

“One of the problems is that the council cannot afford to keep fighting through appeal courts.”

The developers of Sancton Hill Wind Farm will pay big money to the community – £35,000 a year for 25 years. But Douglas Saunders believes this obscures a bigger picture.“Of course the village hall reopening is good for the village,” he said. “But it doesn’t change our feeling that the wind turbines will be detrimental to us and this area. There is legislation going through parliament now which relates to the minimum distance wind turbines can be situated from residential properties.

“This is intended to state that two kilometres is the closest a turbine can be erected. We are slightly less than one kilometre away from one of them.

“You have only to read the bad press from the States and Scandinavia. There have been all sorts of problems with ‘flicker effect’ which happens when the wind turbine rotates. And there’s the noise of the turbine.

“Stress can be greatly increased due to continuous buzzing. If there are going to be problems such as these they will violate our human rights.”

Sancton has a highly-regarded gastro-pub called The Star, a church, Methodist chapel and a children’s nursery. Shops have not featured here for decades, the school was closed in the 1980s and the village post office closed around 11 years ago.

Its main street is on the busy A1034 which connects South Cave to Market Weighton.

The coming of the wind turbine is a positive move in the view of husband and wife Rob Thomson and Anita Liley. They live in the centre of the village and are treasurer and chair of the amenity group.

They are very pleased with the refurbishment of the hall, which has been totally rebuilt except for the original floor and the struts that support the roof and walls.

But in using wind farm cash they have also been careful to plot a diplomatic course in the past months as Rob explains: “We didn’t think of it as taking the devil’s money,” says Rob.

“ We purely saw it as another funding body. If you look at any other village hall up and down the country everyone applies to any funding organisation they can.

“In addition to what we received through REG Windpower, grants were also received from similar bodies including WREN (Waste Recycling Environment) and COMMA (Community Aggregates Fund).

“We have kept distanced from the debate about the pros and cons of having a wind farm because we are a small community and views are held strongly.

“There are those who are happy and unhappy in varying degrees, and those who are indifferent. We were more concerned, as a group, about creating a facility to help bind the community.

“Unless you walk a dog, or pop to the pub, there is little opportunity to make conversation with fellow villagers.

“The village hall was always a popular venue for social evenings where you could meet others and we are now hopeful that we will see those events return.

“We would like to see a monthly farmers market operating from the hall.”

On the face of it, the East Riding of Yorkshire seems one of the most obvious places to harvest wind power: “Nothing between here and the Urals” has become a common cry.

This is largely low-lying land, punctuated by the rolling hills of the Wolds. Windmills used to be a familiar sight.

You can still visit the last one working today at Skidby and also see how these were built to a scale which fitted in with the landscape. Quite unlike, say critics, the monsters of today.

But the new wind turbine revolution has huge potential for these parts.

There have been nearly 200 applications for wind farms in the East Riding alone.

Engineering giants Siemens are in the process of placing a £210m wind turbine factory in Hull and there’s a proposed wind farm at Fraisthorpe.

The opposition say the impact of this would overpower Bridlington Bay, one of the gems of the East Coast.

Sancton’s story

Sancton is an ancient manor mentioned in Domesday Book as Santun and Sautune, meaning Sand town.

Today the village has a population of around 320.

There are still a number of farms, but today it is primarily a dormitory community for the cities of York and Hull.

Sancton Village Hall’s reopening also saw the launch of The Sancton Cookery Book, a collection of favourite recipes from villagers and friends.

Proceeds from the sale of the book are being put towards funding further equipment for the hall.

For information contact: rob.thomson@talk21.com