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Wind turbine setback
By

A FAMILY who want to put up a wind turbine to power their home have suffered a knock-back because no renewable energy policy is in place.

Colin and Kate Birss applied for planning permission to put up a 15m high turbine in a field opposite their listed cottage in Amwell Lane, Wheathampstead.

The couple, who have three children, say they want to do their bit to preserve the environment and combat climate change.

But District Council's planning committee north decided it was ill-equipped to make a decision on whether to approve the application at a meeting on Monday night, because there were no guidelines on applications of this kind.

Putting his case to the committee, Mr Birss said the 6kw turbine was the smallest one available to generate enough electricity to meet the family's needs, measured at 8,000kw hours per year.

He said: "We want to generate our own electricity sustainably.

"Unless somebody gets on with it, I do not think the world will be worth living in for my children."

The turbine would rise above the tree line but be surrounded by woodland, he told councillors.

But Councillor John Chambers said: "This is outrageous. We have not yet decided our policy on this.

"We are talking about a Grade II listed building in the middle of the Green Belt.

"If we grant this tonight we would be setting a precedent and leaving ourselves open to public criticism."

The committee eventually voted to send the application to a referrals committee, with a recommendation that it should be granted.

The decision came under attack from Councillor Liz Stevenson who accused her colleagues of "prevaricating".

She said: "I think this is a fantastic application.

"I think people who can are taking the opportunity to make a difference and break the mould in terms of renewable energy.

"I think it is innovative, it's exciting and I think the officers' recommendation to grant it is firmly backed up by national guidance."

Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Birss said: "The future of the planet is important and it's interesting that our children are very excited about it and the younger councillors seem more positive."

Mr Birss said any refusal to grant the application on the grounds of gaps in policy would be "inadequate".

He said: "The climate is changing now.

"It is happening.

"Something needs to be done and we have got the option and the interest to do it."

9:00amSaturday15thJuly2006

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