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Author Michael Morpurgo spearheads battle to thwart wind turbine in ‘War Horse valley’

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 13, 2014

By Phil Goodwin

Author Michael Morpurgo spearheads battle to thwart wind turbine in ‘War Horse valley’
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Author Michael Morpurgo has opposed plans to build a 251ft (77m) wind turbine in the idyllic Devon valley which provides the rural backdrop to his book, War Horse.

Campaigners in the area have already complained that a rash of such renewable energy projects could destroy the nascent tourist industry which has grown up around the First World War epic, which has been turned into a successful stage play and hit Steven Spielberg movie.

It is the second time the writer – a freeman of West Devon – has actively campaigned by speaking out publicly against a wind power scheme.

Mr Morpurgo says he “vehemently” objects to the proposals for a site area between the villages of Iddesleigh and Winkleigh, an area in which he lives and last year described as an “oasis of peace and wonder, a paradise still far from the madding crowd”.

“It is not simply that I object to this application, which I do most vehemently, it is the principle that if we allow this to go through, where do we stop,” he wrote.

“We will have a random scattering of thousands of these huge wind turbines all over Devon, all over our countryside.

“It is that that I do not want, that I do not believe the people of Winkleigh want, and that now, it seems even the government says it does not want.

“If our democracy means anything, this should not and must not be allowed.”

The writer, who set up the Farms for City Children charity in the area, last year joined the campaign to turn down plans for a turbine measuring 145ft (44.5m) from base to blade tip at Combe Farm, Iddesleigh.

This application was refused by West Devon Borough Council but an appeal has been lodged by the developer.

It later has emerged that as many as five turbines could be built in the Okement valley, where the novelist’s moving story of a young farm boy and his horse, Joey, unfolds.

Locals heard details of the plans last Wednesday evening at a packed open meeting in Winkleigh Village Hall arranged by local parish councils.

The applicant wants to erect a turbine measuring 50m to the hub and 77m to the blade tip Bryony Hill Farm.

Almost 100 people have objected with only a handful either supporting or offering neutral views on the scheme, which is being handled by agents Mi-Grid, based in Blackwater, near Truro.

Penny Mills, chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England in the Torridge district, said the group had objected because of the potential “harm to the unspoilt landscape, to the setting of historic and heritage assets, proximity of people's homes”.

She also points out the proliferation of turbines in the area - there are around 30 turbines already operating or in planning within six miles of Winkleigh - arguing that the cumulative impact would be “like living in a large wind farm which no one asked for and from which only a handful benefit”.

English Heritage has also come out against the application, concluding that it would affect a number of medieval churches in the area.

Within three miles there are four grade one and one grade two listed churches as well as four grade two listed churches, the conservation body said, describing the photomontage of the turbine as “overpowering and incongruous intrusion”.

Jenny Chesher, the South West inspector of historic buildings, said the application was “contrary to national planning policy” and should be refused.

“We would question the public benefit of a single wind turbine when weighed against the harmful impact on several highly graded heritage assets, particularly since extensive permission already exist for wind turbines in Torridge District,” she added.

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