Nunney Parish Council has voted against proposals for four wind turbines at Torr Works in its meeting on Monday 5 August.
Following last month’s vote recommending refusal for 22,000 solar panels along the A361 at Ridgeway, the Council was asked to comment on the planned wind turbines by the planning authority, Mendip District Council.
Aggregate Industries has submitted a planning application proposing the development of four wind turbines at Torr Works. Once constructed, the proposed turbines would supply low carbon electricity directly to Torr Works, reducing its reliance on conventionally generated electricity and the wider carbon footprint of its UK operations.
The proposed wind turbines at Torr would have a maximum height of 80m and a total installed capacity of 3.6MW, generating approximately 8,326 MWh of renewable electricity to be used at the quarry each year and helping to reduce associated carbon emissions by approximately 4068 tonnes annually.
The project is currently in a consultation stage, which includes a series of public exhibitions and debates in local councils. Mendip District Council is the planning authority that will ultimate decide whether the project goes ahead. Nunney Parish Council is not a planning authority, but can comment on proposals.
Torr Works is a nationally important rail linked source of construction aggregates, producing up to 6 million tonnes per annum for markets in the south of England. In 2011 Torr Works used approximately 16,400 MWh of electricity. Therefore the construction of the proposed turbines would result in a net reduction of approximately 50% of the carbon emissions associated with electricity consumption at Torr.
Any electricity exported to the grid during the life of the project (for instance, if the electricity generated by the turbines exceed the demand of the quarry) will be bought back by Aggregate Industries, through a power purchase agreement, to offset the wider carbon emissions of the Company’s UK operations. However, Torr Works operates both during day and night time hours and therefore it is predicted that a high proportion of the energy generated by the proposed turbines will be used directly by the works.
The proposed location for the turbines is on the east of Torr Quarry, approximately seven kilometres to the east of Shepton Mallet. The site covers 600 acres, 200 acres of which have been landscaped to blend in with the surrounding countryside. Aggregate Industries estimates that quarrying operations at Torr Quarry will be completed by 2040, operating throughout the 25 year life of the proposed turbines.
TWAG is the Torr Works Action Group, an environmental action group formed by Somerset residents to oppose Aggregate Industries’ plans for wind turbines. TWAG says it supports an appropriate mix of sustainable energy sources. The group argues, however, that electricity consumers will pay for the wind turbines through subsidies and believe that Aggregate Industries’ proposal would be an extremely poor investment of resources for a future clean energy supply. “The only significant benefit would be to the company itself,” according to the action group.
Wanstrow Parish Council voted against the wind turbines in July, arguing that the promised community benefits were vague and that the visibility of the wind turbines could district drivers on the A361.
At the Nunney Parish Council meeting on Monday 5 August, eleven members of the public turned up to witness the debate. Local residents and chartered architects Clare and John Martineau presented arguments against the wind turbines. They focused on the proximity to local housing and nearby Asham Wood, one of the few Ancient Woodlands in the area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The woods currently have good populations of Sparrow Hawks and Peregrine Falcons, and are home to eleven species of bats.
The nearest residential property would be a mere 740 metres away from the wind turbines. Although it was highlighted that there is no policy setting out the ideal minimum distance between wind turbines and residential housing, in other similar wind energy projects a distance of 1.5 miles is recommended.
There was some debate over whether wind turbines are an efficient form of alternative energy. Councillor Francis Hayden said that Aggregates Industries was in his view entirely laudable in its efforts to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. He stressed that any subsidies for wind energy were likely to be temporary and that Aggregates Industries would receive no subsidy at all if the wind turbines did not provide energy to the National Grid.
Nunney Parish Council received five emails from local residents objecting to the proposed wind turbines at Torr Works. However, it was noted that not everyone in the village is against the project.
In a vote on the issue, Nunney Parish Council voted to recommend refusal for the wind turbines, with six council members against, three in favour and one in favour of referral to the planning officer.
More information on the proposed wind turbines at Torr Works can be found on the website www.aggregatewindtorr.co.uk, where you can also register your views on the proposals. The Torr Works Action Group (TWAG) website is available at twag.co.uk.