Huge wind turbine proposed for the Tunbridge Wells borough
A LANDOWNER has sparked controversy with plans for the first wind turbine in the Tunbridge Wells borough.
In a landmark application, Edward Barham is trying to get permission for a turbine as tall as a six-storey building in the Weald countryside.
Mr Barham has already built a 24m tall turbine in nearby Rolvenden, which is in the Ashford borough, but now wants one of the same height on land at Beacon Farm in Benenden. Sited at one of the highest points in the Weald, it would be seen from miles around.
The plans, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, have already proved contentious, with councillors demanding the matter be publicly discussed. A 100-signature petition has been lodged and more than 20 residents have formally objected.
Alan Milne, chairman of the Benenden Amenity and Countryside Society, said: "We may need turbines but they should be offshore in the Thames Estuary rather than ruining the rolling hills in the most beautiful part of Kent.
"We are worried that allowing this could set a precedent."
Mr Barham uses the land to grow fruit and Christmas trees as part of the Hole Park estate.
In 2010 he became the first person to apply to Ashford Borough Council for a wind turbine when he proposed his Rolvenden one.
Planners refused it but Mr Barham later overturned the decision on appeal.
Mr Barham said: "More have gone up in that borough since then I think.
"However, we have not had one complaint about it.
"Were people complaining about the Beacon Windmill when it went up 300 years ago? I doubt it. People grow accustomed to these things."
As part of the Benenden application, Mr Barham has been inviting the community to see the Rolvenden turbine for themselves.
Mr Barham, whose family has owned the estate for 101 years, said he did not intend to destroy the land but wanted to make it greener.
"We have got to do more to create alternative energy sources, that is a known fact," he said. "We have already got quite a number of solar panels at Hole Park.
"We feel very committed to green energy."
He said he was looking at plans to convert Beacon Farm for light industrial use with the electricity generated from the 11kw turbine being used to power it.
He said: "At night and weekends and when the building isn't being used, the power from the micro turbine would be exported to the grid and is likely to be used within half a mile of the site, to neighbouring homes."
Borough councillors for Benenden, Sean Holden and Francis Rook, have called in the application, meaning it will be discussed by the eastern area planning committee on August 28.