HIRING wind campaigners from hundreds of miles away to boost support for a controversially proposed turbine in Mid Devon has been branded a "propaganda exercise" by opponents.
The latest tactic from developers keen to redress the tide of local opposition to their scheme for a turbine near Stoodleigh appears to be calling in wind activists from elsewhere in the UK – in this instance, from around 300 miles away in Yorkshire.
Dr Philip Bratby, a retired energy consultant who lives near Rackenford, said this was an unusual, although not an unprecedented move by the pro-wind lobby.
He said: "I have heard of it happening before but not very often, and not usually for a single wind turbine application. There was an example of this being done for a previous planning application near here, but that was for a wind farm with multiple turbines.
"It is a propaganda exercise and I would encourage people to look into all the issues connected to such a scheme before signing anything."
He said generally people in towns and cities were more in favour of wind turbines than those in the countryside, who were most affected by such schemes.
So far the scheme to build a 330kW wind turbine with a maximum blade tip height of 54m on land at Blatchworthy Farm, close to the North Devon Link Road, has attracted more than 80 letters of opposition.
At the time of the intervention by the eco-campaigners, only four letters of support had been received by the planning department at Mid Devon District Council, which will determine the application.
Manning said the make-shift stall in the centre of Fore Street, which was draped with a sheet with the words 'Yes to wind', was manned by Jeff Rice who came all the way from Yorkshire and was assisted by a colleague from South Wales.
Jeff estimated that around 100 people had taken away a prepared document which was in support of the wind turbine proposal for Stoodleigh, with a space for people to fill in their names and send the letter to the council's planning department.
Jeff admitted that not everyone they had spoken to had been supportive of their stance. He said: "A small number of people have told us they are opposed to wind power but from the people we have spoken to today I would say around 80 per cent have been in support."
Asked whether he felt it was right for someone who did not live in the area to be lobbying for more wind turbines in the Devon countryside, Jeff said: "Quite a small turbine was built recently close to where I live, but this is not about me or any other campaigners, there are still a majority of people out there who are in favour of turbines whether we are here today or not."
He said the turbine could provide enough electricity to supply 150 homes per year.
Applicants Windberry Energy Operations has already sited an anemometer to measure the wind speed on the site close to the North Devon Link Road. Opponents say the structure was still visible from several locations despite being shorter than the tip height of the proposed turbine.
Phil Talbot, who chairs Stoodleigh Parish Council, which has formally objected to the scheme, said: "I went up to Bampton Down a while ago, and you could see the anemometer from there."
A separate application for a solar farm development on land in the same ownership has also been submitted to the district council and is due to be discussed at the end of the month, when a rearranged site visit is planned, after poor visibility hampered a previous visit.