I have been aware now for some weeks that there have been rumours circulating about an interesting development on Brownhills Common, and following some research, I can now share the news with readers that Prowind, a German wind turnbine operations company has been granted permission to erect three 45m tall wind turbines just off the Parade behind the Hussey Arms.
I am as astonished by this news, as I’m sure many of the readership will be, but after long and careful reflection on the matter and no small amount of research, I can honestly say that I don’t think it’s a bad idea.
Back last November, Prowind approached Lichfield District Council with a view to erecting several of the elegant electricity generators on the Meerash Ridge just south of Hammerwich, and in their introductory letter, the company pointed out that these would not be the first use of wind power in the old village, as the former windmill attested; but the Council chiefs in Lichfield were not minded to approve, as turbines already overlooked the city from Curborugh, Little Hay and Fisherwick.
Lichfield was keen however to gain the benefits of cheap, green power and suggested that the windswept expanse of Brownhills Common may be a better location, Chasewater being out of the question due to it’s SSSI status. The cable runs back to Lichfield would be relatively short, and only involve one 18 month lane closure on the A5 and A461, and Walsall Council would appreciate the rent and use of otherwise unusable land.
The German green generation company followed up on the suggestion, and after intensive and secret talks over a number of months, Councillors voted to approve the plan at a session last Tuesday (9th March 2017) at Walsall, by a majority of 2. Councillor Phil Blower, of Aldridge South voted in favour, and said after the meeting:
‘This is an excellent plan that will be of huge benefit Walsall – we need to do more as a borough to engage with renewable energy, and what better way to do that than have the first wind turbines in the borough up in Brownhills.
‘It’s true that at 45m these will not be small machines, but they won’t be visible from most of Walsall and certainly not from my ward, and the land rental will provide a huge boost in finances that will allow us to reverse the library closure in Pelsall going forward.’
The most startling aspect of the plan is that because these are renewable energy generators, no planning permission is required, and installation will be starting within weeks.
The plan is to create deep concrete piles into the common, totalling some 35 meters which will be bored by large drilling rigs, then use cranes to erect the main columns, which will require the clearance of about 170 trees, but with careful planning, most of the trees lost will be coniferous and therefore aid the heathland restoration.
During the works which will be 24 hours per day on a three shift basis, residents will be prevented from accessing the common, but when complete, the heath will be restored and the footprint of the three turbines will be very small, with only mild noise nuisance for nearby neighbours within a 2 mile radius.
Some Brownhills residents and community activists have been quite vocal in their opposition, not least the Friends of Brownhills Common, who held a special session in the bar of the Swan on hearing the news last Wednesday. Barrie Poxon, spokesmen for the Common enthusiasts said:
‘It’s an outrage that we’re having these hideous machines foisted on Brownhills by Lichfield, with the consent of Walsall for nothing more than a few bob in the council coffers. Walsall have been hell bent on destroying the common for years, and nobody knows for sure the effect these monsters will have on the town.
‘With the increased wind these things will generate, it won’t be safe on the common and in town at all. Small children, old people and the vulnerable could get blown over, or into traffic. They’ll probably scare the deer and adversely affect any man wearing a hairpiece.
‘I really don’t know why we need all this green electricity crap anyway. My kettle runs on steam and I don’t hold with all this modernity. We need to go back to the old days when we just dug up the common for coal, sailed it up the cut to Walsall and burned it in the power station that covered the town in soot. It only made a few houses sink and caused minor illness.’
Dr. Frish Zephyr, of Prowind, was more pragmatic.
‘Renewable energy, particularly wind generation, is the future. After all, with Brexit and the eventual divorce from the EU upcoming for the UK, all the electricity you ship in from the continent will be cut off by the French. To avoid blackouts, your country needs to adopt new methods of generation, and the best place to do that is where there is a large amount of wind, and is already relatively ugly. Our turbines will enhance the area, be a tourist attraction, and only cause temporary damage to the common.
‘Cities of culture and sophistication like Lichfield must not be allowed to suffer power blackouts when this could be so easily prevented by only mild inconvenience in Brownhills.’
As I often do at times like this, I approached the will man of Clayhanger Marsh, Chaz Mason, to see what he thought.
‘I’m concerned for the effects on local birdlife, but hopefully, the presence of these turbines might well steer the rarer, more skittish birds onto Clayhanger Marsh, which would be of huge benefit.
Mine’s a pint of something by Backyard if you’re in the chair.’
In order to get more information, I phoned the office of our MP, the fragrant Wendy Morton, to garner her views on the matter. Sadly, she was out when I called, and I was told by her secretary:
‘Wendy doesn’t do Brownhills. Unless there’s a photographer. Book a photographer, and she’ll be straight over. Couldn’t fax me a map over, could you? We had terrible trouble last time.’
Years after the black gold was dug out from under Brownhills to fuel the industrial revolution, it looks like Brownhills will once again be at the heart of generating power for the upper classes.
What do you think about this plan? Comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.