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Parishioners’ Fury Blows Apart Church Wind Farm Plan

The Church of England has been forced to drop plans for six giant wind turbines on land it owns in north Devon after an angry revolt by parishioners.

Protesters claim that the plans were designed to profit from the government’s generous subsidies for “green” electricity at the cost of some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

The campaign against the 25-metre wind turbines was condemned by the Bishop of Exeter, the Right Reverend Michael Langrish, in a letter read out at church services in the three parishes on Sunday. He accused protesters of “outright verbal abuse” and “bullying” at a series of hostile public meetings attended by diocesan representatives.

He said that as a result the proposals, which had been expected to generate £50,000 a year in income and help halve the Church’s carbon footprint by 2020, would now be dropped.

Fullabrook near Ilfracombe, Devon

Fullabrook near Ilfracombe, Devon is one of England’s largest onshore wind farms – Nik Taylor/Getty

 

Wind farms have attracted increasing hostility despite their supposedly green credentials. Critics claim the electricity they generate produces little benefit for the environment while destroying the landscape. In April the Government indicated it would be taking a more hostile line to new onshore wind farms after a revolt by more than 100 backbench Tory MPs concerned at the blight on the countryside.

Few proposals have generated such hostility or unanimity as the plans to erect two wind turbines on church-owned tenanted farmland in each of the three north Devon parishes of Chittlehampton, East Anstey and Black Torrington. At an angry meeting in Chittlehampton 150 residents voted unanimously to oppose the Diocese of Exeter’s plans. Similarly vocal meetings took place in the other parishes.

Ray Stacey a member of Chittlehampton Parochial Church Council said that hard-pressed parishioners had had to reach into their own pockets to repair the church clock but would get no benefit at all from the wind turbines. He said: “The money generated will go straight to the Synod. We are poorer than our own church mice.”

In his letter the Bishop of Exeter admitted that the diocese had failed to fully consult on the plans but condemned the disproportionate hostility with which they were greeted.

He said: “I have been grieved by the way some of those most opposed to our proposals have resorted to abusive and bullying tactics. I, and many of my colleagues, have received very unpleasant letters and those who have attended meetings in a genuine effort to explain the thinking behind our proposals have been shouted down and called liars.

“It grieves me too, that in many ways the scale of aggression and hostility generated from a small number of people was so far out of step with the small scale of what we proposed.

“I am sure you will join me in condemning such behaviour and working to diffuse such aggression.”

Ken Slow, a resident of Chittlehampton who attended the meeting, claimed Devon had been chosen as a test case by Church authorities to gauge local opposition to the “monstrous metal mushrooms”.

He said: “One of the diocesan representatives made the astonishing statement that Exeter had been chosen as a guinea pig for the idea of wind turbines on glebe land by higher authorities within the Church of England.”

He said approval of the planning applications would have opened the floodgates elsewhere.

Opponents were celebrating yesterday. Richard Hopton, a barrister and author who lives less than 200 metres from the site of the proposed Chittlehampton turbine, said he hoped this would be the end of plans by the Church to try anything similar elsewhere.

He said: “This is a great moment, it’s a David and Goliath victory. The Church is an enormous institution and a very large landowner.

“This is a good day for Devon but it’s a great day for the rest of the country too. Hopefully we have pulled a wedge out from under the bottom of the door.

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