If we really want to tackle some of the biggest environmental problems we face we need to look at where our energy comes from. We can no longer continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate. Colchester & NE Essex FoE have been active in gathering support for the Hockley Farm, Earls Hall Farm and Middlewick windfarm proposals.
Colchester & North East Essex FoE received the EarthMovers Award at the September 2011 FoE conference for our most recent successful windfarm application - Middlewick windfarm.
In the Feb/March 2012 FoE Change Your World magazine they included in the Grassroots news about our three successful windfarm campaigns in our group's area. Our campaigns helped all three to be agreed after public inquiries. We proved that most local people supported them in spite of vociferous anti-windfarm local groups which are centrally orchestrated.
As we were unable to hold our annual fundraising New Year Feast this year, I personally invited just those CFoE members who would normally attend our Feast - including our activists who had supported our windfarm campaigns - to a celebratory lunch at one of our favourite restaurants at Mistley Quay overlooking the river Stour estuary.
Everyone chose and paid for their own meal including vegetarian or vegan choices and we all enjoyed ourselves. The sun shone and we had a lovely meal. Charles Bather took these photos. The first photo was looking down the table and the second looking up the other way. The third photo was Brenda Bather presenting me with a gift from her and Charles Bather - a wonderful Crock Pot slow cooker.
It's sometimes worthwhile to celebrate successes and enjoy ourselves!
Paula Whitney, Co-ordinator,
Colchester & North East Essex FoE.
The third proposed Essex windfarm was at Middlewick near Southminster. They appealed for support at very short notice before a planning deadline, and some of us visited the site on 12th Feb. 2010.
It is a large windswept area of fairly barren farm fields with drainage ditches for the run-off from the fields. From the road close to the site we could see distant trees and a few distant farmhouses with the seawall to the far east and south of the surrounding fields. The few distant farms were quite isolated. Apart from the trees around the farms and over in the far distance the main area was quite bleak.
We saw the current line of low power lines going across the site which will be able to transmit the electricity from the turbines as they are high voltage. The turbines are going to be brought by sea to the south of the site on the River Crouch to be landed on a temporary landing stage where the seawall leads to the road to the windfarm site.
Natural England sent in a holding objection, requiring more detail about effects on wildlife and mitigation measures. We then agreed to support the proposal, subject to Natural England's concerns being addressed.
The concerns of Natural England were addressed by RidgeWind very quickly, and by June 2010 both Natural England and the Environment Agency supported the application. The Essex Chambers of Commerce supported it and said it would bring around £6million into the local economy.
The date for the application to be heard by Maldon District Council Planning Committee was then delayed till Thursday 29th July 2010.
We raised 58 letters of support at Burnham-on-Crouch on two mornings in June 2010, the second morning visit was at the local Burnham Co-op with their special permission.
At the SE area committee on 12th July 2010, and again at the full Planning Committee on 29th July, Maldon councillors rejected the windfarm proposal. A few of us attended each meeting. The press coverage below is in the form of large image files:
- Our press release from before the second meeting: Time to halt climate change with local renewable energy
- New windfarm to go ahead? (jpeg file), by Jamie Forsyth in the Maldon & Burnham Standard on July 7th, about the officers' recommendation of approval, with one of the accurate mockups of what the windfarm would look like
- Group spreads misinformation and creates hysteria (jpeg file), letter from Paula printed in the Essex Chronicle on July 29th with a copy of the misleading mock-up photo from the anti-wind brigade
- Windfarm plan is refused (jpeg file), a short piece in the Colchester Gazette on July 14th about the first refusal
- Our letter to the press: Maldon councillors opposed the Middlewick windfarm (to the Standard, 10/08/10)
- A more general letter to the press: Benign and powerful wind energy (to the Gazette, 19/08/10)
In autumn 2010, two of our members went doorstepping in Southminster with representatives of RidgeWind, and raised around 300 letters in support.
A public inquiry on the Middlewick Windfarm proposal, resulting from Ridgewind's appeal against refusal (see above), began on 8th March 2011 at Maldon Council's offices in Princes Road, Maldon, presided over by the inspector Elizabeth Fieldhouse. The inquiry was expected to run until 17th March, but overran; Elizabeth Fieldhouse made her own site visits. Paula presented our submission to the inquiry, included below with some of the references, on Tuesday 15th March.
I gave copies of the attached article in the Maldon & Burnham Standard after the Maldon officer had recommended approval of the windfarm before the councillors played to the SIEGE gallery and unanimously turned it down. I also read out in full my attached letter which the Chronicle published about the misleading information - they had illustrated it with the inaccurate picture BATTLE used of the Bradwell windfarm at Hockley Farm.
The new point 3 that I made was about the visual impact of up to three proposed new nuclear plants at Bradwell with cooling towers. The Spanish company Iberdrola said they would be interested in building up to three new plants. This would entail cooling towers up to 200 metres high x 100 metres wide for each nuclear plant, as the very shallow estuary has not got enough water.
BANNG (Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group) had mock-up pictures of three new nuclear plants with massive cooling towers on the background screen at their public meeting on 10th December with the Government Head of New Nuclear, Hergen Haye.
This inquiry was overrunning when we attended last Thursday. They were going to finish submissions on Friday and had rescheduled the site visits to this next week. The Inspector said she had already done some site visits including West Mersea, which was excellent news - so I didn't have to ask her to go to look over at the Bradwell nuclear hulk and the 20 pylons!
The Maldon & Burnham Chronicle had our picture outside the inquiry supporting the windfarm on the front page the previous Thursday. There was a good crowd of us there till about 2pm on that first Tuesday and have attended every other day, which is very important.
- Our submission to the inquiry (.DOC file)
- Our original support letter (.DOC file) (ref A)
- New windfarm to go ahead? (.JPG image) (ref B)
- Group spreads misinformation and creates hysteria (.JPG image) (ref D)
End of inquiry: The Middlewick windfarm inquiry ended later than planned with closing submissions on 18th March 2011; the decision was due in about six weeks. Different members of our group attended on alternate days of the inquiry, which showed the Inspector there was significant support, usually more than those attending in opposition. The Maldon & Burnham Chronicle had our picture on the front page at the start of the inquiry, and the Maldon Standard for Wednesday 23rd March had our picture illustrating an article.
Maike Windhorst is in the front of the picture with the placard about Essex Chambers of Commerce supporting the windfarm which will bring in £6million to the economy and the community. A good group of FoE and other people supporting the windfarm are holding placards with Susan Francis holding the placard saying that Natural England, RSPB and FoE all support the Middlewick windfarm. The article includes some of Paula Whitney's statement about the misinformation spread by SIEGE and BATTLE.
- Middlewick windfarm has a lot of local support, to the Maldon & Burnham Standard 4 April 2011
- Three local windfarms ARE supported by environmentalists and the public, Essex County Standard 29 April 2011
Result: The Middlewick windfarm proposal received consent from the planning inspectorate on May 19th 2011. See our press release: Inspector approves Middlewick Windfarm on the Dengie Peninsula. Paula is quoted briefly on Heart Radio news, about halfway through each of these news bulletins: 7am news (2m27 audio), 8am news (2m12 audio).
With Essex a long way from meeting its renewable energy targets, Clacton-on-Sea was identified in 2006 by one of the leading wind energy companies keen to help secure the area's future energy supply, whilst helping to tackle climate change.
Npower Renewables selected a site at Earls Hall Farm for a 5 turbine scheme which, if built, could provide enough electricity for the average annual needs of between 5,500 and 6,000 homes.
Investigations took place into the suitability of the site and an application for planning permission was submitted.
Project Manager Vicky Portwain said, "Although a relatively small wind farm, this scheme can make a valuable contribution towards the ongoing battle against climate change due to its windy location and the efficiency of modern wind turbines. The 5 turbines would offset the release of between 22,000 and 26,900 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide. To put that into perspective that's the equivalent of removing between 7,160 and 8,762 cars off the roads of Essex."
She added, "This is one of the few potential sites in Essex suitable for a wind farm scheme of this scale which would contribute significantly towards both local, regional and national targets and objectives for renewable energy and reduction in CO2."
The proposed development was welcomed by Paula Whitney, Co-ordinator of Colchester & NE Essex Friends of the Earth who said, "Essex is particularly susceptible to flooding and other severe weather effects because of climate change. A report from Oxford University blows away the myth that wind is intermittent. A study lasting over thirty years across the whole of Britain, showed Britain has wind power which is available all year round and when electricity is needed most.
The Eastern Region has set a target of 10% renewable energy by 2010 and these five wind turbines would provide enough electricity to meet the average needs of the whole of St Osyth and Brightlingsea."
Paula Whitney and Val Mainwood, spokesperson for BRARE (BRAdwell for Renewable Energy), went on a site visit with Vicky Portwain of Npower Renewables to Earls Hall Farm in autumn 2006, and both thought it was a suitable site.
In January 2007 four of our members went on a coach trip to see eight similar turbines at Deeping St Nicholas in Lincolnshire. We were impressed with the windfarm and in particular noted how quiet the turbines were - 'a gentle hum' was how one of the members described it.
After the application was lodged in early 2007, Colchester FoE helped raise many letters of support at stalls at local fairs. The nationally-orchestrated anti-windpower people got into full swing and whipped up strong local opposition with many hundreds of letters of objection. However, we believed even more letters of support had been lodged.
We later discovered in October 2007 that Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT) had written objecting to the siting of one of the turbines which is in the vicinity of Hartley Wood. It is 70m from the woodland and EWT believed this turbine should be resited to a position at 180m distance as shown in a previous plan. They were concerned about the hazard to bats present in the woodland. However, Natural England had not objected and did not share their concern. EWT supported the windfarm and the five turbines in principle.
Because of this objection the Co-ordinator had a whole-day site visit in mid-November 2007 with Cath Stevenson of Npower Renewables, looking at the site and maps and discussing the potential for resiting the fifth turbine. We were given a map with more detail showing the three wide restrictive buffer strips crossing the site - the line of local grid pylons, a gas pipeline and a Vodafone link set distance. This limits the resiting of the fifth turbine to one spot south of the line of local pylons.
Three members of Colchester FoE - Hildegard Hill, Tim Morris and Paula Whitney - had a subsequent unaccompanied site visit and agreed we would support the resiting of the turbine south of the pylons as our preferred choice.
However, if this were not possible, we would accept the micro-siting which had been suggested by Npower Renewables to 90m away from the woodland, but still to the north of the line of local pylons. This was also supported by the members at a group meeting. We all strongly supported having five turbines on Earls Hall Farm.
Tim and Paula took our Regional Campaign Co-ordinator, Mary Edwards, on an unaccompanied tour of the Earls Hall Farm site in January 2008. Mary supported our stance and we all agreed that these turbines would be a very good way to help in the local fight to combat climate change - with clean renewable electricity from this windfarm providing the equivalent current electricity needs of the whole of Brightlingsea and St Osyth villages.
This application was turned down by Tendring councillors because of the hostile local anti-wind group, and it went to a public inquiry. We believed an independent Inspector would look at the issues and it would be up to him or her to require resiting or micro-siting of the turbine at the inquiry.
We raised over 1000 letters of support to present to the inquiry, in contrast to only 152 letters of objection.
The public inquiry took place at the Tendring council planning offices at Weeley, from Wednesday 29th July 2009.
- 'Wind farms just a huge stealth tax' letter response (.PDF, opens in new window/tab)
- Letter to Clacton Gazette regarding wind power -- 2/12/08
The inspector approved the windfarm in November 2009. Press release: Exciting news of first Essex windfarm. Letter: Exciting news of first Essex windfarm approved at Earls Hall farm, printed in the Gazette under the heading 'Climate Change: The answer is renewables', and in the Standard with a picture under the heading 'Windfarm is good news'.
Npower Renewables submitted a proposal (in or around 2005) for twenty wind turbines on the Dengie peninsula behind the nuclear power station at Bradwell-on-Sea. Two anti-wind groups were formed - BATTLE and SIEGE. They threatened to march on St Paul's Cathedral, the largest landowner involved. In spite of much pro-wind lobbying, St Paul's pulled out.
A smaller windfarm of ten turbines was then proposed on farmers' land who were fully supportive of windpower, at Hockley Farm. A large number of objections were received by Maldon council, who also objected to the proposal.
Colchester & NE Essex Friends of the Earth helped raise an even larger number of letters of support. When it was reported that Colchester council had objected to the proposal we discovered that a planning officer had unilaterally objected without consulting council Cabinet members. In the nick of time a week before the deadline, Colchester council's leader wrote a letter of support. There was a considerable fuss about the officer's action.
Npower Renewables appealed against Maldon council's rejection of the proposal. A public inquiry was held in June 2007, with the Inspector spending a lot of time investigating, including three days of the inquiry spent at Southend Airport to investigate whether there were any problems. The Inspector gave the windfarm the go-ahead.
This was then challenged by the anti-wind groups. After a long delay, there was a second inquiry in November 2009; the windfarm was approved in January 2010.
If constructed the windfarm could produce enough green power to meet the average annual electricity needs of between 8,100 and 10,600 homes, making an important contribution to both local and national renewable energy targets. This would be the equivalent of a third of Maldon district's homes.
Colchester FoE, and in particular certain members, were heavily involved in years of campaigning for the closure of Bradwell Nuclear Power Station, which closed in 2004; then, in the national Magnox Decommissioning Dialogue process, campaigning with others for the safe early decommissioning of all Magnox nuclear stations to greenfield site status. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) was set up and recommended 25 year decommissioning instead of 100+ years.
With other local campaigners we strongly opposed the incineration of low level radioactive oils, solvents and scintillants upwind of Mersea Island just across the Blackwater estuary. We delayed this for years and then after they had only incinerated a small amount they finally agreed to take it off the site for disposal.
On March 7th 2007, the East Anglian Daily Times headlined with the lead story 'Nuclear Future? New Reactor Fear: Protestors vow to fight as British Energy buys land'. This story reveals that land has been purchased adjacent to the existing nuclear power station currently being decommissioned, with a view to building a new nuclear power station.
Colchester FoE's Co-ordinator, Paula Whitney, is quoted as saying that "residents would fight against any new proposals for a new nuclear plant at Bradwell" adding "The site is hugely threatened by a rise in sea levels, it is very vulnerable to flooding and it is on an earthquake fault line. The island is very antagonistic about it. We are downwind of the site, and if anything happened we could not escape. There is a very good fighting force here from different parts of the community - we are very strong and we will fight it".
There was a CBC scrutiny panel meeting at the Mersea MICA hall on Tuesday 23rd September 2008 at 6pm, with speakers for and against nuclear power (report link below).
- From the ENDS bulletin: Slash renewables target to protect nuclear, says EDF -- 12/3/09
- Article in Gazette: 'Power bosses due in court' -- 30/12/08
- Letter to the press: We can reject nuclear.
- Press release from BANNG: Report on Bradwell meeting in West Mersea on 23/9/08
We submitted objections to the national nuclear consultation that ended on 22 Feb. 2010. The following letter was printed in full in the EADT under the headline "Have your say on future of nuclear power station": No need for nuclear power. Letters were also printed in the Gazette under the headline "Why Bradwell nuclear plant should be fought", and in the Standard.
In response to the proposals for a new nuclear plant at Bradwell, the group BANNG has been formed. The purpose of the Group is to seek to protect the people and environment of the River Blackwater estuary and its surrounding area, now and in the future, from the risks and dangers of radioactivity by preventing the further development of nuclear activity in the estuary.
Here are various documents relating to the new group (all .DOC):
Article by Andy Blowers in Guardian 12-03-08
BANNG Aims and Strategy
BANNG Launch Press Release
BANNG Press Release 13-06-08
BANNG Update 20-06-08
Also, see the press release reporting on the recent meeting in West Mersea.
The group now has its own website: BANNG
Bradwell nuclear site update - BANNG demo 9th April 2009
The Strood is the road leading off Mersea Island to the mainland, the one exit route in the case of a nuclear incident. It also floods twice a day at the highest tides in Spring and Autumn, sometimes for as much as two hours. Mersea is just across the Blackwater estuary, downwind of the old Bradwell nuclear Magnox site being decommissioned over the next hundred years or so, and now proposed for possibly two new nuclear plants.
BANNG (Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group) held a demo on both sides of the Strood on Thursday 9th April at the 1pm tide which covered the Strood. They had some excellent placards and a banner, with yellow and black balloons on sticks. They leafletted and talked to all the drivers of cars stuck at both sides of the flooded Strood.
BBC LookEast covered it very well in the 6.30pm and 10.30pm regional news on Thursday 9th April and the local Gazette had a colour picture and good article on Friday. Here is a letter from Mersea resident Ian Clarke about the Strood issue.
We also have a letter from Ian Clarke to the Gazette and EADT about the effects on fisheries of the cooling water intake: A nuclear powered vacuum cleaner ?
Another problem with water-cooled nuclear power stations: they need cool water. During the heatwave, EDF has had to close its riverside power stations because they can't be run safely, and is importing power from Britain to make up the shortfall, as revealed by The Times: France imports UK electricity as plants shut.
Summer Vigil, Sunday 9th August 2009
BANNG have organised a peaceful vigil (waterborne and onshore) in protest at the plans for new nuclear build at Bradwell, and in the interests of the future of the Blackwater estuary. Times: 2pm-4pm. Details in this Word document: Summer Vigil.
Threat to Blackwater estuary from new nuclear plants
There is concern, expressed in the Colchester Daily Gazette (see copy of article below) that a new nuclear power station at Bradwell, in the Blackwater Estuary, Essex, could destroy parts of Colchester's native oyster fishery which has been renowned since Roman times.
This concern is based on the practice of nuclear power stations releasing large quantities of warmed "cooling water" into the estuary which alters the aquatic ecology, making it inhospitable to oysters; and, the fact that this scenario did actually occur with the old nuclear power station at Bradwell (now closed), with the oyster fishery only recovering once the discharges of water from the nuclear power station had ceased. In the case of the new nuclear power station it is said that 72,000 cubic litres of water will be pumped in and out of the Blackwater Estuary every second, more than twice the volume of the old Bradwell nuclear power station.
Article in Gazette: Fears that new nuclear power station will destroy oyster fishery. -- 7/5/09
Page updated 18/3/12