Leading jockey AP McCoy and a host of racing’s top names are fighting a proposal for the erection of an 81m wind turbine two miles from Lambourn, Berkshire.
“This is horse country,” said AP, whose house is directly opposite the proposed site. “In such a hugely horse-populated area it’s just dangerous. I have nothing against wind farms, but I think this could be put in a better position. “It’s about 150m from a bridleway and gallops. Yes, most horses do eventually get used to things, but if the first time they shy they do it in front of a car, it’s something they only need to do once,” he added.
The application, for Baydon Meadow Community Wind Turbine, has been submitted by Stroud-based Matthew and Rachel Partridge, and is due to go before planners on 21 November. The couple propose to provide the local community with an opportunity to buy shares in the turbine.
Lambourn is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty. It is densely populated with horses and home to more than 40 trainers. The proposed turbine will be sited 11m from a road used by many racehorses, and opposite an estate purchased by AP and his wife, Chanelle, who plan to create a state-of-the-art training yard. “AP won’t train there, we’ll rent it out,” said Mrs McCoy. “But if the turbine is erected it is unlikely we will develop the yard.”
A petition has been submitted to the council, organised by the National Trainers Federation and signed by a number of trainers, jockeys and racing names, including Nicky Henderson, John Francome, Brendan Powell and Tor Sturgis. Others from outside the Lambourn area have written directly to the council, including top trainers Jonjo O’Neill and Martin Pipe, and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).
While BBC presenter Clare Balding has not yet signed the petition, she told H&H of her “full support” for AP McCoy. “AP has so much to give to the racing community and he clearly wants to invest a huge amount,” she said. “It would be such a loss to the industry if he was not able to create his training centre.”
Peter Walwyn, chairman of the Lambourn Trainers’ Federation, told H&H: “We’re in an area of outstanding natural beauty, it will cause distractions on the M4, it will be noisy for horses and we just don’t need it,” he said. Trainer Nicky Henderson added: “I hope they will think again — it goes without saying that the animals involved are very valuable.”
There are currently no guidelines recommending the minimum separation distances from public footpaths, bridleways or roads. And while the British Horse Society recommends that a wind turbine should be sited at least four times its height away from any route used by riders, little research has been done on the effect wind turbines have on horses. Nor, more crucially in this case, the racing industry.
West Berkshire Council planning officer in charge of the case, Michael Butler, told H&H that the horse racing industry is not his primary consideration. “A lot of issues have been raised by the racing industry, but I have yet to see any evidence on the actual impact on horse racing. So we’re keeping our options open,” he said. “My principal consideration is the visual impact. But the committee might take a different view.”
He added that an independent consultant has not been employed by the council to assess any likely impact on Lambourn’s racing industry.Mr Butler’s recommendations will be made public on 16 November, five days before the planning committee meeting. Planning permission for an identical proposal on this site was sought four years ago, but turned down on the basis of the visual impact.