Pulham wind turbines ‘could endanger birds’

Three wind turbines planned for a Norfolk airfield could jeopardise the safety of birds flying to an agricultural reservoir, a planning inquiry heard yesterday.

Representatives of the 4Villages action group opposed to TCI Renewables' plans to install the 126m high turbines at Upper Vaunces farm, near Pulham Market, warned bats, barn owls and raptors flying to a nearby reservoir could become entangled in the turbines' rotor blades and die.

Jonathan Clay, of 4Villages, cross-examined senior ecologist John Box, of Atkins engineering, who carried out a survey to determine the likely impact of the turbines on the biodiversity of the area.

He asked Mr Box whether birds travelling on a flight path from Rushall to the new agricultural reservoir 500m from the turbines would collide with the blades, to which the ecologist replied the birds could have some 'interaction' with the turbine.

Earlier, Mr Box told the inquiry in the council chamber at South Norfolk Council that grass-cutting measures around the new reservoir would prevent the growth of large bushes and trees where birds could nest and any visitors would clearly be able to see the turbines.

However, Mr Clay said there was still a risk birds could be attracted to the reservoir and disputed the level of visibility, asking whether the view would be blocked by an embankment.

He added: 'The reservoir would have a degree of attractiveness even without the mitigating measures present. It would have the effect of attracting significant numbers of birds and bats to the site.'

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The arguments were presented at the second day of the inquiry held by government planning inspector Zoe Hill to look into the plans after Oxford-based TCI Renewables appealed against the council's decision to refuse planning permission for the turbines on the farm between Rushall, Dickleburgh, Pulham Market and Pulham St Mary.

Previously, 4Villages has attacked the energy firm for 'grossly understating' the turbines' impact and attacked the validity of assessments into matters such as visual impact and the site's biodiversity.

Their main complaints are that the three turbines would have an 'overbearing' impact on local residents and harm the rural landscape.

But the company hit back, accusing objectors of attempting to 'stretch evidence beyond its natural breaking point' to back up their own arguments.

The applicants say the 9MW turbines could provide power for about 3,500 homes if they operate at peak production, but the plans were rejected in December after the council received 400 letters of objection and 40 letters of support.

David Hardy, representing TCI Renewables, said 500 turbines were needed to meet government renewable energy targets and Pulham was an 'excellent' site.