MORE than 200 protesters gathered in Saddleworth to be part of the country’s biggest national wind farm conference.
Campaigners Sir Bernard Ingham and Professor David Bellamy were invited to the event as special guests along with various other speakers.
Protest groups from as far afield of the Isle of Skye, the Isle of Wight and Somerset turned up to oppose plans to build wind farms on beauty spots.
Spokesman for the Saddleworth Moors Action Group (SMAG), Cllr Ken Hulme, said: “This conference represented the start of a national movement dedicated to protecting some of our most precious landscapes from the environmental vandalism caused by turbines.”
The event – the first of its kind in this country – aimed to raise awareness about the perceived dangers of wind farms and bring environmental groups closer together in their fight.
However, wind farm developers United Utilities have hit back at the protesters after they were not invited to the conference. Green energy managing director Doug Coleman said: “We would have welcomed the opportunity for an open debate and we are disappointed that the conference organisers did not feel the same way. It appears that the organisers were more interested in whipping up opposition to wind energy than in addressing the realities of climate change. The event was an anti wind farm rally, not a conference.”
The conference at Saddleworth Civic Hall was organised by Saddleworth Moors Action Group, which is fighting plans by United Utilities to build turbines on Denshaw Moor.
At the conference Prof Bellamy said: “First of all they are not wind farms, they are wind factories causing high-rise industrialisation of landscapes.”
“If the government is so concerned about the environment, then why are they financing the construction of coal-fired power stations in the third world, and why are they building more airports and more motorways in Britain?”
Sir Bernard – a former official at the Department of Energy responsible for energy conservation – closed the conference by urging protest groups to “fight like tigers” to protect the countryside.
The conference was backed by a number of senior politicians, including the Oldham East and Saddleworth Labour MP Phil Woolas, and MEPs Arlene McCarthy and Chris Davies, as well as Country Guardian, the national organisation formed to resist the creation of wind farms in the countryside.