Poll divides opinions on wind farm plan

An independent poll has shown a slim majority in favour of a controversial planned windfarm near Fakenham – although the survey results have been disputed by opponents.

Research agency Populus was commissioned to question 1,000 people about the six-turbine Jack's Lane development proposed by green energy firm RES on farmland between Stanhoe, Syderstone and North Creake.

The survey showed 51pc of respondents either 'strongly supported' or 'somewhat supported' the project, while 33pc were against it and 16pc were unsure.

RES project manager Simon Peltenburg said the poll proved support for the scheme was more widespread than anti-turbine campaigners had been able to prove.

But members of opposition group Creakes Action for Protecting the Environment (CAPE) said the telephone questionnaire had generated a 'skewed' response from interviewees as far afield as Dersingham and Hunstanton.

They said last year's parish polls, which showed that 77pc of people in Syderstone, 80pc in North Creake and 85pc in South Creake opposed the plan, were a better reflection of local feelings.

West Norfolk Council's development control board is due to decide the application, at a date yet to be set.

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Mr Peltenburg said: 'We commissioned the poll to provide an independent analysis of local opinion.

'We hope the results of the poll clearly highlight that there is not the level of opposition to the Jack's Lane proposal that some would claim.'

Diana Brocklebank-Scott, who runs Creake Abbey Studios in North Creake, was one of the people who received a call. 'I think it was flawed in the way the questions were asked, so it was open to an incorrect conclusion,' she said.

'The questions were skewed away from allowing the respondent to support windfarms offshore, but not onshore. I said that in general I couldn't answer the questions yes or no, so it was very difficult to give an appropriate answer.'

CAPE spokesman Reg Thompson said: 'The area covered included Hunstanton and Dersingham, where it is doubtful they have heard of Jack's Lane. People living that far away don't know the geography or landscape or the area, or what the impact will be.'

In response to the criticism, Mr Peltenburg added: 'None of the respondents lived more than 10 miles from the windfarm. The poll was carefully designed by Populus to ensure that the questions were compliant with the Market Research Society Code of Conduct and that they could not be construed as leading.

'Respondents were given the opportunity to think about their answers and to choose the 'don't know' response if they had not heard of the windfarm in question.

'We have been careful to be open about the results of the poll, to publish them in detail and not to use them to make exaggerated claims.'