Norfolk village’s council tax rise to pay for wind farm battle

Pictured L-R Michael Windridge, district cllr and Geoff Moulton, chairman of Showt with a scale mode

Pictured L-R Michael Windridge, district cllr and Geoff Moulton, chairman of Showt with a scale model of the village church and a turbine. - Credit: Archant © 2007

A parish council has increased its precept by almost 50pc to help pay for costs incurred in exploring the facts around a contentious wind farm application.

Hempnall Parish Council voted in favour of a rise of £8,000, or 47.4pc, which will result in its share of the council tax increasing from £23,500 in 2012/13 to £31,500 in the coming financial year.

An average household, those in band D, can now expect to pay £72.92, up from £49.47 in 2012/13 and £36.16 in 2011/12.

Much of the rise will go towards paying for a parish poll later this month to determine villagers' opinions on four 126metre-high wind turbines proposed by TCI Renewables for land at the edge of the village.

The poll is expected to cost in the region of £1,500.

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Two specialist consultants have also been employed by the council to help it establish a 'balanced and informed' view before considering the application, and to prepare a report to be submitted to South Norfolk Council's planning committee. This is expected to cost several thousands of pounds.

Hempnall Parish Council chairman Geoff Moulton, said the 'majority' of the rise was attributable to wind farm expenses.

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He added: 'We had a very clear mandate from our parish saying they didn't want it so we felt it very important to make our decision based on facts.'

Mr Moulton said the parish council had provisionally voted against the wind farm, but was also waiting to hear the outcome of the parish poll.

This will be held at the Mill Centre on March 18 between 4pm and 9pm. People will be asked to vote yes or no to the question: Do you support the planning application for the erection of four wind turbines in Hempnall?

Plans were first submitted for a seven-turbine development off Bussey's Loke by Enertrag UK more than six years ago, which was rejected by South Norfolk councillors and by an inspector on appeal.

The new proposals at the site, known as Streetwood Wind Farm, could provide enough renewable energy for 5,200 homes and boost community coffers by £400,000 over the 25 years of the project, TCI Renewables said.

The plans will be on display at the Mill Centre on March 12 from 7.30pm to 9pm.

SHOWT (Stop Hempnall's Onshore Wind Turbines) spokesman Hilary Battye, said her group had also incurred costs and spent £27,000, obtained through fundraising, while fighting the first application, with further expense to come.

She added: 'We support what they're doing simply because the parish poll is a democratic way of determining the position of the people who will be affected by the wind farm.'

The site is proposed for land owned by Liz Allen, a Hempnall parish councillor and owner of GH Allen Farms.

South Norfolk councillor for Hempnall, Michael Windridge, said: 'What is really making the people of Hempnall angry is the realisation that it is one of their own parish councillors, a trusted member of the local community, who is behind this development but who has consistently refused to recognise the scale of opposition to the plan and the controversy and heartache which it is causing.'

Mrs Allen said that she was not part of any of the wind farm discussions had by the town council and left the room while they were ongoing.

She added: 'I look at being a parish councillor as looking after the interests of the whole of the village and what the village needs, not just the wind farm.'

A support group, Power for the Future, has also been set up by local residents in favour of the application.

Vice Chair of Hempnall Parish Council, David Hook, would like the following statement to be known 'that faced with a complex planning application of great importance to the village the Parish Council has voted sums of money to enable it to make an informed judgment based on expert advice and to obtain an accurate assessment of local opinion via a Parish Poll.'

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