OPPONENTS of Peel Energy’s plans for a 20 turbine wind farm on Frodsham and Helsby marshes condemned the scheme when they turned out in force for a public meeting.
More than 250 residents gathered at Frodsham Community Centre for a two hour meeting on Friday called by the town council and to help gauge community feeling before submitting its response to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
The application comprises two “clusters” of 412ft high wind turbines – 13 in Helsby and another seven at the Frodsham end of the marshes – which Peel Energy claims would generate enough electricity to meet the average needs of about 28,500 homes in Cheshire.
Peel refused to take part in the public debate and only Professor Andrew Basden, a leading member of the Mersey Wind Energy Supporters group, and one other Frodsham resident, spoke in favour of the scheme, with Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Weaver Vale, Peter Hampson, saying he had not made up his mind and would be putting “unanswered questions” to Peel.
The meeting was dominated by objectors, including Conservative candidate Graham Evans, UK Independence Party hopeful Peter Remfrey and retiring Labour MP Mike Hall, who pledged his ongoing support to help topple the scheme and reported that North West Water is proposing to stop draining the marshes “which might impact on the viability of putting turbines on the site”.
Speaker after speaker sided with local campaign group Residents Against the Windfarm (RAW), every argument voiced against the scheme drawing cheers and applause.
The action group, led by Roger Young, displayed graphics showing the “prospective” visual impact of the “massive” turbines, some of which they claimed would be just 1,000 metres from the nearest houses in Helsby and only 530 metres away in some parts of Frodsham.
They said this was “much too close to our homes” and could “significantly reduce property values.”
They also played a BBC recording of “disturbing” low frequency “vibration noise” from an operational wind farm, one resident suggesting it could even pose long-term health risks, especially for children.
Objectors claim a “crucial refuge” for protected wildlife on the Mersey estuary, the green belt marsh is a “vital open space” between large-scale industry at Ince/Stanlow and Runcorn.
They challenged the claimed electricity output of the wind farm, claimed TV reception would be “seriously affected” and there were fears construction work would disturb contaminated canal dredgings.
The development’s potential effect on radar and safety at Peel-owned Liverpool John Lennon Airport brought calls for this to be independently assessed, objectors concluding that, with Peel’s plan for an incinerator at Ince already approved, and another in Runcorn, “surely we have done our bit for renewable energy.”
Roger Young said: “Any benefits from this wind farm would be completely outweighed by the disadvantages.
“It would attract large subsidies paid for by electricity consumers, and all to generate little amounts of electricity with not much CO2 savings.”
“Peel can be beaten,” added Cheshire West and Chester councillor Alan McKie, of Helsby.
Fellow Frodsham councillor Andrew Dawson said the proposed development was “too big and in the wrong place”. He told the meeting: “Peel is not running the agenda round here, we are, and we must make our voices heard.”
Professor Basden dismissed arguments against the wind farm as “either irrelevant or misleading.”
Frequently shouted down from the floor, he struggled to present his case but concluded: “We can’t continue to depend on limited supplies of coal, gas, timber and uranium, we need to take responsibility for the energy we generate. The marsh is a good place for a wind farm and it has a part to play in contributing to the future.”
The scale of the application means it will be decided by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, rather than the local planning authority.
However, objectors are pressing the council to oppose the scheme and force a public inquiry.
Both sides are urging residents to write individual letters to the Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, DCPR Team, Energy Markets Infrastructure, 3 Whitehall Place, London SSW1A 2WA before the April 12.