Villagers braced for new windfarm battle

The Upper Swift Valley. Picture supplied by ASWAR
The Upper Swift Valley. Picture supplied by ASWAR

Villagers have another battle on their hands after a business declared it is trying again to get permission to build a windfarm near Churchover.

Rugby Borough Council’s planning committee refused permission for the plan in April, amid fears the turbines would interfere with a nearby air traffic control system.

But RES Energy, the company behind the proposal, has now appealed against the decision – and is confident of success.

Project manager Dan Patterson said: “We believe that we have very strong grounds for appeal.

“ RES has been consulting with the organisation responsible for national air traffic since 2012 to understand their concerns in relation to any potential impact of the proposed wind turbines on the communications system.

“To date, we have not been given any evidence that the windfarm would have any effect at all.”

RES wants to install four 100m-tall turbines in on the Swift Valley, by Churchover. The firm claims it would bring £40,000-worth of benefits to the area every year and would generate enough energy to power 5,400 homes annually.

Mr Patterson added: “We would like the appeal process to consider whether a theoretical impact for which there is likely to be a workable solution should outweigh the benefits of a well-designed wind farm that can deliver clean, renewable electricity and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, which are becoming increasingly expensive.”

But some people living nearby are committed to continuing their fight against the proposal.

Lorne Smith, of Against Subsidised Windfarms Around Rugby, said: “We do not agree that a tiny amount of costly, intermittent energy from wind turbines of the subsidy speculator McAlpine/RES, is more important than Air Traffic Safety, nor the industrialising of an historic conservation village in a vital green lung between Rugby and Lutterworth.”

Rather than being dealt with by a planning inspector, the appeal has been ‘called in’ for determination by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for communities and local government, at the request of Rugby MP Mark Pawsey. Churchover Parish Council and ASWAR have now launched an appeal to raise significant funds to hire a top lawyer to lead their case.

Mr Smith believes the call-in reduces the chances of planning permission being granted. He added: “We are grateful to Mr Pawsey for his effective lobbying on behalf of the community, which has now been under threat for five years.”

Mr Pawsey said: ““I am pleased that the Secretary of State has called in the appeal by the potential developers of the windfarm in Churchover.

“Since the proposals were first put forward I have worked closely with the local community and ASWAR to ensure their voices are heard within Government and I can only praise the tenacity and commitment of everyone involved to this point.

“The local community have legitimate concerns regarding these proposals given the impact they would have on the local area, the environment and also the Government’s own statements on the need for additional on-shore windfarms. It is only right that the Secretary of State has called-in the appeal to review it.”