The Stonewall Hill Conservation Group has been set up to co-ordinate actions to protect the tranquillity of Stonewall (aka Reeves Hill) which is under threat from the wind energy developer Bolsterstone Plc in conjunction with landowner Simon Gourlay. This threat dates back to 1994 when Gourlay first proposed a scheme for a wind energy power generation scheme on Stonewall Hill. SHCG’s opposition to the current scheme dates back to 2007.
SHCG welcomes the establishment of renewable energy schemes whose environmental and social benefits clearly and demonstrably outweigh their various costs and which enjoy the full support of their host communities. The so-called “Reeves Hill Community Scheme” meets neither of these criteria.
The industrial wind energy power generating facility would have 4 turbines, 105m tall to blade tip, with blade-sweep of up to 40m radius. Stonewall Hill is a particularly unsuitable site for such a scheme. The hill is a highly visible and exposed 400m (1300ft) ridge running along the Border between England and Wales parallel to Offa’s Dyke and close to Stanage, a landscaped parkland of national importance. The proposed turbines are just “fall-over distance” from an accessible Powys road, well-used and much loved by locals, sight-seers, walkers, cyclists, and horse-riders.
The scheme’s forecast output of well under 25% of its 9.2MW capacity does not justify the damage to the beauty, the historical importance and the amenity of the surrounding countryside. Bolsterstone’s claim that the scheme could supply the energy requirements of approximately 5,144 homes is clearly nonsense. Such claims have been shown to rest upon dubious figures; more importantly, when the wind does not blow, these homes would have no electricity at all if were not for extra-costly emergency back up from fossil fuels. As for a “community scheme”, in a survey of all residents of Norton parish, 93% were opposed. The developers have highjacked the name of the community to further their own ends.
There would be 15 houses within 1000m of the proposed turbines with the nearest at only some 510m away. Apart from the towering visual impact, occupants will be affected by noise which in some areas has driven people from their homes. In the UK, many Local Authorities are trying to impose limits on how close wind turbines can be to residents. These limits are invariably over 1km.
The turbines would put a blight on a hill valued for its recreational amenity and for its magnificent 360 degree views over the Shropshire AONB, the Teme Valley, Radnor Forest, the Brecon Beacons, Hay Bluff, the Malvern Hills, Clee Hill, etc. Views in from all these points would be spoiled by distracting moving structures over 100m tall. Users of the internationally famous Offa’s Dyke Path, only 3 km away, would experience repeated views, notably from Hawthorn Hill and the Green Price Memorial.
Although the proposed turbines would be in Herefordshire, they would be close to the settlements of Norton, Presteigne and Knighton, to Offa’s Dyke and to Stanage Grade 1 listed park. The last 5km of access are also in Powys. To build the power station Bolsterstone needs to build a new length of private road in Powys as well as to make substantial modifications, thinly disguised as 19 “passing places”, to the Powys public highway leading to the turbines. The impact of the project would therefore be greater on Powys.
In 2008, Powys County Council wrote to Herefordshire Council recommending refusal of Bolsterstone’s application. Ignoring this advice and having refused to allow Powy’s Chief Planner to address their Planning Committee, Herefordshire Council recommended approval in 2009 and, after another planing meeting, finally issued consent in 2012. The developers have yet to obtain planning consent for access through Powys. The Welsh Assembly Government have ruled that the developer’s application for access should be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment and that Powys Council should consider the cumulative impact of both road access and wind farm. In an attempt to deprive Powys of their right to decide, Bolsterstone sought and obtained consent for a judicial review of the WAG ruling. Recently they have backed down and withdrawn from their judicial review.
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