Wind farm: Yorkshire moors could get England's biggest wind farm

Walshaw Moor near Hebden Bridge in Calderdale
Sixty-five wind turbines will be put on peat bog moorland in Calderdale if plans are approved

The largest onshore wind farm in England could be built on moorland in the Pennines if plans get the go-ahead.

Calderdale Windfarm Ltd is exploring options for 65 turbines on Walshaw Moor, near the Walshaw Dean reservoirs above Hebden Bridge in Calderdale.

The company said the scheme would generate enough electricity to power more than 286,000 homes a year.

Environmental campaigners warned the development would disturb peat bogs, releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

A spokesperson for Calderdale Windfarm, which is backed by Worldwide Renewable Energy (WWRE), said the proposal was an "incredibly exciting opportunity".

"During a cost-of-living crisis, with ongoing energy security challenges and the climate emergency, the UK needs to explore how it can generate more carbon-free renewable electricity," the firm said.

"But our proposals are at a very early stage and we recognise there will be a range of views about the merits of our proposal.

"We look forward to continuing to work with the local community, environmental groups, local councillors and others over the coming months to help shape the final design of the project."


Spencer Stokes, BBC Yorkshire

This is one of the first applications for a new wind farm in England since the government relaxed the rules on building them in September.

It's been almost impossible to build wind farms in England since 2015 when the former prime minister David Cameron introduced rules that meant an objection from just one person over an onshore development could stop it going ahead.

Several plans for wind farms above the Calder Valley have been put forward since the 1990s. One of the most vocal critics was the former prime minister Margaret Thatcher's press secretary Sir Bernard Ingham, who was born in Hebden Bridge but died in February.

The scoping document from international energy firm WWRE for the new Calderdale Windfarm proposal envisages 65 turbines with a height of between 150m and 200m. For comparison, Ovenden Moor Windfarm near Halifax has nine turbines, each 110m (361ft) high.

Calderdale Windfarm Ltd say their turbines could provide electricity for 286,491 homes. The population of Calderdale is 206,000.

Large parts of Walshaw Moor are blanket bog which Natural England describes as "among the most important habitat England has to offer".

Ros Berrington, from Upper Calderdale Wildlife Network said: "If you're going to build a wind farm, do not put turbines on the most protected wildlife habitat site you can find - which this area is.

"I think it's very short-sighted to think that putting a wind farm on blanket bog is anything other than a crazy idea."

Wildlife campaigners, Calderdale
Wildlife campaigners from the Upper Calderdale Wildlife Network say Walshaw Moor is the wrong location for a wind farm

A full application for the scheme, which would generate 302 megawatts of electricity from turbines covering about 2,350 hectares, will go before Calderdale Council's planning committee next year.

The turbines could be 150-200m (492-657ft) tall.

Councillor Scott Patience, the council's Executive Member for Climate Action, said: "Clearly people love our landscape here, it's what makes Calderdale special.

"So the idea of wind farms scares a lot of people and what that might mean for that landscape.

"Equally people need to know that some compromise will be necessary in our journey to net-zero, so what does that look like?"

Louise Maris Evans, who has advised the government's climate change committee and lives in Hebden Bridge, said: "If we put a wind farm on peat, which is an important storage for carbon, we can disturb that peat and damage it, releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

"But on the other hand if the peat isn't in the condition it should be, really wet, great peat with good sphagnum moss, there's a possibility you could say we'll give you permission for the wind farm on the condition that you then do loads of improvements to that moorland."

Heather burning on Walshaw Moor, Calderdale
Annual heather burning on the moorland encourages new shoots to feed grouse, but protesters say it worsens flooding in the Calderdale valley

In recent years protesters have also called for a stop to heather burning on Walshaw Moor - which helps new shoots grow, to feed grouse for shooting - arguing that annual burning has exacerbated flooding in the valley.

WWRE said a wind farm would bring an end to burning and shooting with up to 300,000 new trees also being planted on the moor.

Its scoping report says battery storage and solar panels could also be installed at the site.

The project would also see the creation of a £75m Community Benefit Fund paid to Calderdale Council to help reduce fuel poverty across the district.

A planning application is likely to be submitted in summer 2024.

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