Church scraps turbine plans

Diocese of Exeter cancels proposals for wind turbines in three North Devon parishes after ‘bullying’ and ‘abuse’ from some protesters.

THE church has withdrawn controversial plans for six wind turbines in North Devon after a backlash from the communities involved.

The Bishop of Exeter, the Right Reverend Michael Langrish said the decision had been taken after clergy and staff were subjected to ‘bullying tactics’ and ‘abuse’ by some anti turbine campaigners.

In a pastoral letter to the parishes of Chittlehampton, East Anstey and Black Torrington, the Diocese of Exeter said it was withdrawing its application seeking to place two small agricultural turbines in each parish.

The diocese had initially said it wished to place the 80-foot machines on its land to ‘protect and preserve God’s creation, through shrinking our carbon footprint’.

There has been a strong reaction in the communities involved, with several packed public meetings that saw residents vent their feelings.

In his letter Bishop Michael said: “Our decision to withdraw has been taken out of sensitivity to the position of our local churches, and our clergy and officers, who have been subjected to hostility and in some cases, outright verbal abuse.

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“We have listened to concerns where they were reasonably expressed, reflected and prayed over them and clearly see that given the hostility, now is not the time to move ahead with our plans.

“I have been grieved by the way some of those most opposed to our proposals have resorted to abusive and bullying tactics. I and many of my colleagues have received very unpleasant letters and those who have attended public meetings in a genuine effort to explain the thinking behind our proposals have been shouted down and called liars.”

Penny Mills, chairman of the Torridge Group of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said they were delighted after having strongly objected to the proposals, but surprised and disappointed at the strong language from the diocese.

“If people have been abusive in their private correspondence and calls with diocesan clergy and staff, clearly no one condones that,” she told the Gazette.

“The robust arguments and searching questions at the public meetings were certainly neither abusive nor bullying, just to the point. It is a shame this has been said about parishioners who don’t want beautiful rural Devon destroyed with this industrialisation and have a right to expect a more straightforward and transparent approach by their church.”

Marian Edwards, chairman of Chittlehampton Parish Council, said in her opinion the proposals had not been economically viable, were too close to properties and would have seen a turbine towering above the main village street.

She added: “I chaired the public meeting here and yes, feelings ran high and maybe comments were made, but they were not aimed at individuals.

“I think they were rather na�ve if they did not expect there to be a reaction to their application, but I do not think there was the abuse they said.”

Bishop Michael said the diocese remained deeply committed to the protection of rural Devon and reducing its carbon footprint.

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