• Politician told constituent site should be safeguarded
• Tory also spoke against project for six turbines
Andrew Turner, the Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, has a history of campaigning against wind farms on the island, despite speaking out against the imminent closure of the island's Vestas turbine factory with the loss of more than 600 jobs, the Guardian has learned.
Turner also appears to oppose a new project, proposed by the Danishcompany, to erect three turbines on the island to support Vestas' new research and development centre on the island.
The MP wrote to a constituent about the Cheverton Down wind farm, which would be located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the west of the island, saying: "There are only 35 areas in England which are so outstanding that they have been given special legal protection as AONBs. I believe they should be permanently safeguarded for future generations."
A spokeswoman for the MP, who she said was not able to speak to the Guardian, said Turner would not comment further and believed the decision on whether to give the go-ahead was a matter for the local authorities.
The Guardian has learned that in September 2006 he gave a speech at a march organised by campaigners against another plan by another firm, Your Energy, to erect six turbines at Wellow on the island. It is understood Turner had also written that summer to the council objecting to the proposal. Vestas, which will return to court today attempting to obtain an injunction to evict the workers who have occupied part of the Isle of Wight plant, had warned the council in September 2006 that if the application was refused, it could result in the closure of the factory at Newport in the next few years. But the Conservative-run council rejected the plan.
Yesterday one wind farm developer said: "The argument put by Vestas at the time was if the island can't accept six turbines it hardly sends out the right message to the rest of the company that the UK is a good place to do business." It is understood that Vestas sent a copy of Turner's letter of objection to David Cameron in an attempt to persuade the MP not to oppose the project.
In April, when Vestas announced it was planning to close its factory in Newport, the company's chief executive, Ditlev Engel, blamed local politicians for blocking planning approvals in Britain for onshore wind farms. Despite Turner's record of opposing wind farms in his constituency, he told the House of Commons that the loss of the 600 jobs at the factory represented a body blow to the local economy. The closure of the factory would be "a serious loss to the future of our low-carbon economy", he added.
There are no commercial-sized wind turbines operating in the Isle of Wight, despite the council's strategy to turn itself into an "eco-island".
The three turbines which Vestas, together with its partner Cornwall Light and Power, want to erect at Cheverton Down measure 125 metres from their base to the tip of the blade, and would be able to generate 3MW of electricity each. The council's planning officer is expected to make a recommendation next month ahead of the crucial planning committee meeting in October. Natural England, the government-funded body which advises on wildlife and the environment, is opposed to the Cheverton Down scheme.
An Isle of Wight council spokesman yesterday would not indicate its thinking on the Cheverton Down proposal but said in a statement: "The scale of [wind farm] proposals will be required to reflect the capacity and sensitivity of the landscape of the island to ensure that they do not compromise the objectives for the designation of the Isle of Wight Area of Natural Beauty and Heritage Coast."
Vestas is hoping to end the occupation today of its plant by the group of workers, who were dismissed last week for their protest. An initial eviction hearing last week was adjourned when the judge, Graham White, said papers had not been properly served on those occupying the property.
More climate campaigners are expected to travel to the island before the hearing at Newport county court, to join the camp set up outside the plant on St Cross industrial estate, where a swelling coalition of environmental activists and trade unionists has been supporting the sit-in since it began.
Yesterday Liberal Democrat climate change spokesman Simon Hughes also travelled to the plant. Hughes said he had had a positive meeting with Vestas management who were committed to staying on the island and would seek to reemploy some of the workers in research and development projects.
"The really strong message from them and me is to government and local government, to say if you're serious about renewables then you need to start giving planning permission and place the orders."
Meanwhile the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union made further claims the company was trying to "starve out" the men, after making a formal police complaint at the weekend about the actions of private security guards employed by Vestas.
The union also claimed yesterday it had reached a deal that it would be allowed to send food in according to the requests of the men, but that after one such delivery, on Saturday, Vestas said that had been a "goodwill gesture" only and the company would continue to supply food instead. An RMT spokesman said it was considering taking out an injunction against the company, the security firm or both.
Vestas denied it was attempting to starve the men out and said those inside had never complained to the company about the matter.
Copyright Speakers Corner 2016