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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Cumbria farmer claims windfarm backlash left family in fear of lives

A farmer claims he has been subjected to a 13 month “reign of terror” over plans for a wind turbine on his farm.

Stephen and Julie Shepherd windfarm famers photo
Stephen and Julie Shepherd

Stephen Shepherd claims the backlash from protesters has left his family in fear of their lives.

He said they had waged a campaign against him his wife, Julie, and three young children, including damage to his property, verbal abuse, allowing his animals to stray onto public roads and even death threats.

“Its been a nightmare and we are alarmed at the lengths people have been prepared to go to,” said 46-year-old Mr Shepherd.

“I had a death threat made against me to a third party. This was extremely frightening for me and my family.

“On another occasion someone let some of my bullocks out of a field and they strayed onto the road. The police said the incident could have caused a nasty accident.”

Mr Shepherd’s application last May for an 80m high turbine on land near his home in Drigg Moorside Farm at Holmrook, sparked an outcry.

Local residents said the turbine would spoil what was voted Britain’s favourite view of the western fells.

Villagers who live in the Drigg, Seascale, Ravenglass and Holmrook area have been up in arms about the prospect of an 80m turbine, which they fear would adversely impact on the views of Scafell, Great Gable and Yewbarrow

The application was turned down by Copeland planners, and again on appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, and, on Friday, was turned down again in a test case at London’s High Court.

In the meantime, Mr Shepherd applied a second time for a 45.5m turbine.

In May of this year. That application was passed by a single vote by Copeland councillors, but opposition to the move led to the government’s National Planning Casework Unit (NPCU) taking over the application.

Just days ago Mr Shepherd heard that the second application for the smaller wind turbine had been given the go-ahead.

“We kept our heads down when the larger wind turbine was going through planning, but decided to go to Drigg parish council and defend ourselves during the second application. We told councillors what had been going on, but nothing was done or said.”

The Shepherd family have farmed at Drigg for the past 100 years. They gave up dairy farming last year, but are now keeping beef cattle.

They also run a small caravan and camping site and holiday cottages on the farm.

Protesters, says Mr Shepherd, have even left abusive messages on his Shepherd’s Views Holidays website.

“Protesters with placards have also blocked the lane leading to our farm and approached holidaymakers as they arrive,” said Mr Shepherd.

He said he wanted to put up the wind turbine to offset huge electricity bills.

“We live near Sellafield and some holidaymakers are put off by this, so we offer free electricity as an incentive. So you can imagine the size of our bills.”

Mr Shepherd and another farmer John Hewitson of Yeorton Hall Farm, Egremont, joined forces for the test case. They claimed that in each case a Government planning inspector was wrong to refuse permission for one wind turbine to be erected on the land each of them own.

But Deputy Judge Timothy Dutton QC ruled that the inspector had been entitled to prize protection of the landscape over generation of renewable energy in each case.

He ordered each man pay £2,583 in legal costs to the Government.

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