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Walshaw Moor Wind Farm Public Meeting

Wednesday, 13 December 2023

On the day Cop28 agreed to call on all nations to transition away from fossil fuels, and for global renewable energy to be tripled, the HebWeb publishes the following report from the organisers of the recent public meeting at Wadsworth Community Centre:

Opposition is mounting to the proposed Calderdale Wind Farm on the Walshaw Moor Estate near Hebden Bridge as local people become increasingly aware of the environmental damage that this huge industrial development would cause.

130 people attended a packed public meeting at Wadsworth Community Centre on 6 December to learn more about the impact that the wind farm would have on the landscape and wildlife of the Upper Calder Valley and to voice their objections to the scheme.

Blake Dean in Hardcastle Crags, a popular beauty spot:
3 turbines would be located in close proximity

The proposal by a Saudi-owned company calling itself Calderdale Wind Farm Ltd is to build the largest on-shore wind farm in England on Walshaw Moor, an internationally important Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) - the 'Jewel in the Crown' of Calderdale's wildlife sites, according to local conservationists in the Upper Calderdale Wildlife Network.

Diagram showing relative height of the proposed turbines

The development would consist of 65 enormous turbines up to 200 metres in height (more than 40 metres taller than the Blackpool Tower) scattered over 9 square miles of ecologically sensitive moorland. As well as dominating Walshaw Dean, Wadsworth Moor and Widdop Moor, the turbines would intrude on the renowned National Trust estate of Hardcastle Crags and loom over the beautiful unspoilt valley of Crimsworth Dean. They would also rear up on the horizon above Top Withens, the ruined farmstead said to have inspired Wuthering Heights, which draws Brontë enthusiasts from all over the world.

A series of presentations were given at the meeting outlining the disastrous environmental consequences that the wind farm would have on Walshaw Moor and the surrounding area. As well as being an SSSI, the Walshaw Moor Estate is designated as a Special Area of Conservation because of its rare moorland habitats and blanket peat bogs.

In environmental terms, blanket bogs are as important as tropical rain forest, acting as 'carbon sinks' storing carbon in the ground and absorbing it from the atmosphere. As the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have warned, excavating the peat to build the turbines and create access tracks would seriously damage the blanket bog and increase carbon emissions. 'We're not against wind farms,' said a local environmental campaigner, 'but they need to be in the right place if they're not going to cause more climate and environmental harms than they solve.'

Curlew, one of many ground-nesting birds which breed on Walshaw Moor

An ornithologist from Halifax Scientific Society, who has carried out extensive bird surveys on Walshaw Moor, highlighted the crucial role of this habitat as a breeding site for ground-nesting birds, including curlews, lapwings and golden plovers. Other endangered species threatened by the wind farm include birds of prey such as merlins and short-eared owls. This is why Walshaw Moor has been designated as a Special Protection Area with European level conservation status, the ornithologist explained. If their habitat is destroyed and their breeding patterns disrupted, these birds will disappear. As the RSPB have stated in their advice to Calderdale Council, "a wind farm on Walshaw Moor is highly inappropriate, given the sensitivity of this location, with important peatland habitat, significant wildlife interest and protected wildlife sites."

Great Edge above Widdop Reservoir,
proposed location for 6 200 metre-high turbines

A local landscape architect with experience of Environmental Impact Assessments highlighted the transformative visual impact that a wind farm of this scale and magnitude would have on the rolling Pennine hills of the Upper Calder Valley. The turbines on Walshaw Moor would be seen from key viewpoints throughout Calderdale, including the iconic monument of Stoodley Pike, Widdop Gate above Hardcastle Crags, Great Edge above Widdop Reservoir, Cock Hill above Oxenhope and High Brown Knoll above Pecket Well. In fact the proposed turbines are so tall and so numerous that they would be visible up to 35 kilometres away in the Yorkshire Dales and Lancashire.

A local walker focused on the detrimental effects of the wind farm on the spectacular landscape of the Upper Calder Valley. The hills and dales around Hebden Bridge are beloved by locals and visitors alike and provide an unparalleled public amenity. The Pennine Way, which runs right through the centre of Walshaw Moor, forms the backbone of an extensive and extremely popular footpath network. By rights this area should be a National Park because of its outstanding landscape, the speaker pointed out.

Walshaw Moor and the neighbouring valleys of Hardcastle Crags and Crimsworth Dean are designated as a Special Landscape Area in Calderdale Council's Local Plan, which clearly states these areas should be safeguarded from development. The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), known as the Countryside Charity, are adamant that this area should be protected and have submitted a 'blanket' objection to the wind farm proposals in their entirety.

There was unanimous support at the meeting for a campaign against the proposed Walshaw Moor wind farm on the grounds that it would be an environmental catastrophe for Calderdale. The audience were reminded that, as recently as the 1960s, there were proposals to flood Hardcastle Crags to create a reservoir. Thankfully that danger was averted and today the idea seems unthinkable. Yet as one participant warned: "The Upper Calder Valley is now threatened with an equally destructive and inappropriate industrial development which will affect us all. This development is a hostile act against the countryside, wildlife and people of the Upper Calder Valley. We must fight to stop it."

See also

Large Windfarm proposed for hills above Hebden Bridge 26 Sept 2023

The Scoping Report is now available here

HebWeb Forum thread

Turning Calderdale Green blog post:

Facebook: Calderdale Windfarm Action Group (against)

Facebook: Calderdale Wind & Climate Action Group (for)

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