Partnerships for Renewables (PfR) has been working with Ipswich Borough Council to investigate the wind energy potential of Council land at Thorington Barn, by the A14 near Belstead, as part of the Council’s strategy to protect and improve the environment and reduce the effects of climate change. PfR is delighted to announce the design for the proposal at the Thorington Barn site and work will now begin on the Environmental Impact Assessment.
PfR’s initial desk-based assessment of the Thorington Barn site in 2009 indicated that the site could host up to three commercial-scale wind turbines. However, further investigation into the technical constraints, together with feedback received from local residents, suggested that a two turbine layout is better suited for the site, as announced in November 2011.
The two-turbine project could generate approximately 10.9 GWh of renewable energy each year, equivalent to the electricity needs of around 2,400 homes, and displace over 4700 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year compared to conventional generation sources. 2,3,4
The results from the many thorough environmental and technical surveys have been analysed and a design of two turbines has now been finalised. The development was originally just on Ipswich Council land but as the environmental studies were assessed it became apparent that putting one turbine on adjacent private land could lead to a better design and this two turbine alternative has now been concluded. The site now consists of Council-owned land located south of Ipswich and the A14, near Belstead, and neighbouring private land.
PfR will be continuing its consultation programme by making its plans available for people to see at a series of community consultation events in both Belstead and Pinewood. At the community events plans of the final design will be available along with a number of photomontages taken from local viewpoints. The project team will also be on hand to discuss the project and any queries people may have. The consultation events will be held:
Monday 28th January 1-7pm, Belstead Brook Hotel, Belstead Road, Ipswich, IP2 9HB
Tuesday 29th January 1-7pm Belstead Village Hall, Grove Hill, Belstead, Ipswich, IP8 3LP
We have noted the concerns of local residents and will continue to ensure that these are taken into account to limit the effects on the community. For example, shadow flicker concerns can be comprehensively addressed by turning off turbines at particular times to prevent it from occurring and PfR is committed to ensuring that this is not a problem for local residents. We have been undertaking a very thorough set of environmental studies and would like to assure people that the results will be carefully considered in our proposal.
The next stage is to complete an Environmental Impact Assessment and prepare an Environmental Statement to support the planning application. This will look in great detail at any potential effects of the development such as noise, visual effects, shadow flicker and any potential impacts on habitats and wildlife, and will put forward any mitigating measures to further reduce any potential effects. The planning application and accompanying Environmental Statement will be assessed in detail by the planning department when an application is made to Babergh District Council. All things being well a planning application may be made in Spring 2013 and at that time further public exhibitions will be held to allow people to view the planning application and associated plans.
A market-leading community benefit package will be provided alongside any future development. This will consist of a community fund, which will receive an annual payment at the rate of £2,500 per installed megawatt. If two 2.5MW turbines are constructed at the Thorington Barn site, the fund would receive £12,500 on an annual basis for the operational life of the project (20-25 years). The fund will be administered by representatives of the local community, to be spent on local projects. A separate consultation on the proposed community benefit fund will take place later on in the development process but we are always pleased to hear people’s ideas on how this fund could be used.
Last night the Chairman of the South West Area Committee, an Ipswich Borough Council Committee, outlined the way Ipswich Borough Council will respond to a planning application by PfR, which will be determined by Babergh District Council because the site falls just over the council boundary.
Cllr Peter Gardiner, an Ipswich Borough Councillor who also sits on Suffolk County Council, told the meeting that, if the application is made to Babergh District Council by the time the South West Area Committee next meets, on 28th February, that meeting will be used to gather representations from residents of South West Ipswich, especially Stoke Park and Sprites wards, so that they can be fed into the application process.
He also underlined that Ipswich Borough Council, whilst not the planning authority that will determine the application, will be consulted by Babergh District Council. This will mean that the planning & development control committee at IBC will consider the Borough Council’s response and residents of Ipswich can expect their local councillors to represent their views to the committee.
Cllr Nadia Cenci told Ipswich Spy that she intends to continue representing the views of the hundreds of people who have contacted her expressing concern about the proposals, and her determined opposition is beginning to get results for her constituents – other councillors in South West Ipswich are now having to respond to the fact that she has such a clear position, with Glen Chisholm confirming that he will represent the views of any constituents who contact him, and Cllr Roger Fern promising residents that he will ensure their views are taken into consideration. Without the pressure from Cllr Cenci it is unlikely that there would be any deviation from the Labour line, which still seems to remain “the previous administration left us this contract and we couldn’t get out of it if we wanted to”.
Cllr Barry Studd has contacted us to say that he would be willing to represent the views of the residents of Stoke Park and that any resident who wished to should contact him by email.
Peter Evans, the Chairman of Stop Ipswich Turbines, challenged the Borough Council to respond to a series of technical and legal questions that he had submitted to the Chief Executive, questions that he is concerned the Borough Council are ignoring because the answers may be devestating to the project.
One very serious point appears to be the fact that a term of the contract appears to require the Borough Council to act illegally, potentially negating the contract in its entirety. The contract states that the Borough Council may not do anything that is likely to prevent planning permission being granted by Babergh District Council. This could include responding to the consultation in a negative way, which amounts to fettering the discretion of the planning and development committee. Fettering discretion is grounds for a judicial review, and the inclusion of this clause could well have committed the council to an illegal act.
Officers and councillors committed to seeking a response from the council’s Chief Executive to the questions that Mr Evans had raised.