Hockwold farmer’s wind turbine bid hits flak from RAF Lakenheath

When farmer Bob Young applied for permission to site a wind turbine he thought a nearby colony of rare stone curlews might have been a stumbling block - not the US Air Force.

Mr Young wants to put a single 15 metre (50ft) turbine on his land to help provide energy for his business. An application was submitted to West Norfolk council and is due to be discussed later this month.

Despite no objections from the parish council, Environment Agency, Natural England, National Air Traffic Services the Civil Aviation Authority or Norwich Airport, the Ministry of Defence wants to put a stop to the application.

A report to West Norfolk council's development control board says the MoD objects to the turbine because it has not been demonstrated that it will 'not have an unacceptable impact on the Air Traffic Control radar at RAF Lakenheath.'

The base is home to the United States Air Force's 48th Fighter Wing which flies three squadrons of F-15 jets. Mr Young said he was bemused by the objection as the turbine would be sited at Grange Farm, at Hockwold, next to a barn which would shield it from view.

'No-one mentioned this beforehand. They could have said from the start that there was likely to be an objection because of Lakenheath, but it's news to me,' said Mr Young.

'It's a relatively small turbine and I am surprised that they think it would interfere with radar. We wanted to generate a bit of electricity and improve our green credentials.'

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The turbine, if approved, would produce about 7.4 megawatts of electricity.

The farm is in a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and is also close to a colony of the rare stone curlew, which prompted an objection from the RSPB. But, said Mr Young, the turbine would be well away from the birds and would not create problems for them.

The council's report says: 'While the RSPB objects to the application, on the basis that the ecology information in relation to the stone curlews is inconclusive, Natural England has no objection.

'Natural England concludes that there would not be a significant effect upon the Breckland Special Protection Area, Special Area of Conservation or on any features of the SSSI site.'

The turbine would be sited and maintained by Windcrop, based at Honingham Thorpe, near Norwich.

It offers landowners the opportunity of cheaper energy by siting a turbine on their property.

'There is no evidence of small wind turbines causing issues for either radar or wildlife,' says the company's website. The company was founded about 18 months ago but it now set to grow after securing orders worth millions of pounds.

The first turbines will be put up at five sites across the region this month with a further 15 projects to go live in March.

Managing director John Moore has said the company hopes to be installing 1,000 turbines annually in the region over the coming years, with satellite operations planned for other regions.

He added the turbines would prove popular with farmers whose customers are increasingly demanding better green credentials from their suppliers.

West Norfolk council's development control board is recommended to refuse the application when it meets on Monday.