Wind farm project wins backing

CAMPAIGNERS who launched a large-scale protest against a new wind farm on the edge of Rotherham have been left devastated after the controversial development was given the go-ahead yesterday.

Before yesterday's meeting of Rotherham Council's planning committee almost 500 letters of objection, as well as a petition bearing 1,792 signatures, were submitted in opposition to plans for the six turbines at Penny Hill in Ulley.

Protesters said the turbines, which will each stand 132m (433ft) high, would have an "unacceptable" effect on the green belt landscape, would devalue local properties, would have a detrimental effect on wildlife in the area and would affect people's health.

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Other campaigners said the wind farm could prove a safety hazard as the turbines, which will generate electricity for the equivalent of about a tenth of Rotherham's homes, could distract drivers on the nearby M1 and M18 motorways.

Former geography teacher Mike Corden, the chairman of a protest group against the development, said he was "very surprised" at the decision of Rotherham Council's planning board.

He said: "They've sacrificed the residents of Brampton, Thurcroft, Aston and Ulley for these so-called climate change and renewable energy targets they have to hit.

"The councillors don't care about the thousands of people who are going to be affected."

Mr Corden claimed that the majority of campaigners were concerned about the potential long-term health effects of the turbines.

He added: "Even the planning officers don't know what could happen in 10, 15 or 20 years' time, but they're clearly happy to take the chance."

Meanwhile, environmental campaigners who had told the council that climate change is the "greatest threat facing our planet" praised the board's decision.

More than 1,000 people had registered their support for the Penny Hill wind farm, which will generate between 31,000 and 45,700 megawatt hours of electricity each year and save between 333,250 and 491,275 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over its 25-year life span.

Planners at Rotherham Council had advised councillors to approve planning consent for the development, saying that the benefits of the turbines would outweigh their visual impact.

And, at yesterday's committee meeting, councillors voted eight to two in favour of the plans, which had been submitted by Banks Developments.

The managing director at Banks, Phil Dyke, said: "We're obviously very pleased that the council's planning committee have chosen to support what we strongly believe is a well-designed and thought-out proposal.

"The Penny Hill wind farm will now not only contribute significantly towards meeting the Government's 2020 renewable energy objectives, but will also bring a range of environmental and community benefits to the surrounding area.

"The ever more pressing need to generate increasing amounts of renewable energy through schemes such as this is both accepted and growing, and onshore wind energy has a crucial role to play in meeting local and national energy needs over the coming decades."

Mr Dyke added: "The wind farm will generate enough green energy to supply around 10,000 homes annually, equating to approximately 10 per cent of the households in Rotherham.

"Our aim is to begin work on site as soon as possible and we will continue to work closely with local communities to keep them fully informed about the progress we're making."

Now that the planning board has given its consent, the application will be referred to the Government for approval.