Controversial wind farm given go-ahead

Consent has been given for a controversial 26 turbine wind farm to be built in Romney Marsh despite warnings from conservation groups that it could damage the area's important ecological value.

The application for the wind farm was opposed by a number of groups including the RSPB, English Nature, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, Sussex Wildlife Trust and Kent Wildlife Trust. The groups say that the site, at Cheyne Court, Romney Marsh, is too close to the Dungeness to Pett Levels Special Protection Area (SPA), an internationally important site for birds such as Beswick swans.

The groups fear that the birds could collide with the turbines or be forced away from parts of the Marsh that they currently depend on for feeding.

However, a public inquiry into the wind farm concluded that the project was consistent with government policies and that no adverse effects would accrue from it.

Announcing the development, energy minister Malcolm Wicks said: “The Little Cheyne Court wind farm is the latest development in the UK’s growing wind sector and I am pleased to announce consent based on a thorough public inquiry earlier this year. Once built, its 26 turbines will generate enough electricity to power 32,000 homes, with substantial savings in carbon dioxide emissions.”

Steve Gilbert, RSPB Conservation Manager for SE England said it was disappointing that the decision had gone ahead.

“It was our advice that the developer could not demonstrate that the windfarm would not damage the important bird populations, but the Secretary of State has chosen to interpret the uncertainty in a different way and grant consent. It is now absolutely essential that the construction and use of the windfarm is fully monitored and necessary action taken to ensure there is no impact on what is one of the most important areas for wild birds in the country.”

English Nature and the RSPB will now work with developers and landowners to ensure the management plan is implemented to mitigate damage to the bird populations. Brian Banks of English Nature said: “It is critical that we learn our lessons from this case to understand with more certainty the impacts of large windfarms on wildfowl so we can apply them to future proposals.”

The developer for the Cheyne Court proposal is NPower Renewables.

By David Hopkins

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