Rebellion over wind turbine plan for 320 year old battlefield

November 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

The rebel, an illegitimate son of the previous king, Charles II, landed in
Dorset on June 11 1685 and had gathered around him an army of 7,000 men by
the time he was faced by the royal army near the village of Westonzoyland,
almost a month later.

A significant proportion of them were nonconformists who had suffered
increasing persecution under Charles II, the king’s brother and predecessor.

Others were artisans and peasants disaffected by an economic climate which had
hit the south west particularly hard, and the rising became known as the
Pitchfork Rebellion.

The rebels included amongst their number Daniel Defoe, later to become famous
as an author.

Monmouth decided to chance all upon a night attack. The battle began during
the evening of 5/6 July, but a counter attack at dawn by the King’s men,
commanded by John Churchill – who later, as Duke of Marlborough, would be
responsible for some of Britain’s most famous victories – forced the rebels
to flee.

Experts believe this chaotic retreat, during which Monmouth’s men were cut
down, occurred over the ground where the developers want to erect the
structure.

Survivors were rounded up and locked in a local church which is now still the
most prominent feature on the landscape.

Three days after his defeat, Monmouth was captured and later executed.
Hundreds of his supporters suffered at the hands of Judge Jeffreys in what
became known as the Bloody Assizes.

However, James II himself lasted only another three years on the throne before
he was ousted by William III in the Glorious Revolution.

Part of the registered battlefield, as defined by English Heritage, is within
a Special Landscape Area. It is also an Area of High Archaeological
Potential and was featured in the BBC show Two Men in a Trench.

The proposed turbine is just outside the battlefield boundary, within around
80 yards, although the fields immediately to the north and east are both
within the zone.

However, the Government’s National Planning Practice Guidance states when
considering proposals for wind turbines near to “heritage assets”, officials
should consider not just their “physical presence” but their “setting”.

It adds: “Depending on their scale, design and prominence a wind turbine
within the setting of a heritage asset may cause substantial harm to the
significance of the asset.”

The application comes at a time of intense debate over the efficiency of wind
turbines and controversial subsidies offered to developers behind the
schemes.

It was originally lodged with Sedgemoor Council in September by the local
landowner, Edward Heal, and a renewable energy firm, Mi-Grid.

The council had to reopen the consultation period late last month after it
realised English Heritage had not been invited to take part in the process.
Its officials are due to conduct a site visit before proving a response.

However, others have already responded, with a local wildlife trust and nearby
residents among those raising a variety of concerns, ranging from fears over
the impact on birds, and property prices in the nearby village, to the
historical significance of the site.

Julian Humphrys, from the Battlefields Trust, which has lodged an objection,
said: “Sedgemoor is a jewel in the crown. It is the last pitched battle
fought on English soil, and one of the most undeveloped battlefields left in
the country. Without doubt, it is one of the most evocative and putting in
something like a turbine over it, changes the character of the area.

“We’re not involved in the debate over wind power itself. The point here is
that even if you think they are the most beautiful and efficient structures,
there are still appropriate places for them, and putting one here shows a
lack of concern for the location and its historical significance. We’re not
nimbys – this is England’s back yard”

Ian Liddell-Grainger, the local MP, added: “We’re proud of our history and it
Sedgemoor. is an important part of who we are. In the Houses of Parliament,
if you walk from the central lobby towards the chamber, the first painting
you come to is one of the Battle of Sedgemoor. That is how important it is
to us and I don’t agree at all with the idea that we should ruin the setting
with a wind turbine.

“I am against onshore wind, in any case. We are about to build a new nuclear
power station at Hinkley Point, in my constituency, which will produce real
power on a scale not seen before. These turbines produce diddly squat.”

An historical “Environmental Impact Assessment” carried out for the developers
conceded the site was of “very high significance” and acknowledged that the
impact would be “negative/moderate” on the nearby heritage.

A spokesman for Mi-Grid said: “The historic visual impact assessment
identified that the only physical elements of the battle to survive are
below-ground remains and that the landscape has changed dramatically since
the battle. The assessment concluded that the landscape of the battlefield
has changed a great deal and it is no longer possible to appreciate the
experience of the battlefield as it once was. As there are no visible assets
of the battlefield remaining its setting cannot be impacted.”

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