Friends oppose blot on Wordsworth landscape

Stephen Goodwin reports on the inquiry over plans for a `wind farm' in the Lake District. And, below, a fight for cleaner power in Wales
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The Independent Online
A ridge of hills on the edge of the Lake District National Park could become the windpower capital of England, a public inquiry will be told this week.

Landscape conservationists deplore the prospect, but National Wind Power, the company with the biggest stake on the high ground of the Furness peninsula, claims that 82 per cent of the public is behind its "clean energy" proposals.

Standing in the face of westerlies rushing in over the Irish Sea, the Kirkby Moor ridge is ideal for wind turbines. National Wind Power already has 12 turbines there, generating enough electricity for 4,000 homes and preventing the release of 12,000 tons of global-warming carbon dioxide each year. Another firm has five turbines on nearby Harlock Hill.

National Wind Power wants to extend its farm by erecting 14 turbines on Gunson Height. They would be 177ft high and generate enough electricity for 7,000 homes. But the expansion, like the initial development, is opposed by Cumbria county and South Lakeland councils, the National Park and the Friends of the Lake District. All say the turbines will be in "harsh conflict" with a landscape that is a natural continuation of the fells of the National Park. A public inquiry is due to open tomorrow into an appeal by National Wind Power against South Lake District Council's refusal to grant planning permission for the extension. The inquiry at Ulverston is expected to last 12 days. But the Friends fear a re-run of an earlier inquiry, when an inspector appointed by the Department of the Environment found against the initial Kirkby Moor wind farm, only to be overruled by the then secretary of state, Michael Heseltine. With developments on two other sites in the pipeline, Ian Brodie, secretary of the Friends, said it looked as if companies were "intent on turning the Furness peninsula into the wind-farm capital of England".

Existing turbines can be seen from Coniston Water, 10 miles away and a popular tourist spot in the National Park. However, developments on the ridge will be most noticeable from Black Combe, its 2,000ft neighbour and a favourite of the poet William Wordsworth, who praised the "terraqueous spectacle" unveiled from the summit. But in future the view to the east could well be of a ridge forested by an almost continuous line of futuristic windmills.

Wind farms present an ethical dilemma for environmentalists. While they are highly visible, they are the greenest form of electricity generation. And despite voluble opposition the public, has consistently backed them. In a survey conducted for National Wind Power five months after the Kirkby Moor turbines began operating, only 10 per cent of local people expressed opposition.

Leading article, page 13