THE Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, has blamed “abusive and bullying tactics” for his diocese’s decision to withdraw plans for six 82-foot-tall wind turbines close to three north-Devon villages.
Bishop Langrish said that his staff had been subjected to “outright verbal abuse” from objectors to the proposals, and he had acted to protect his clergy.
The scheme’s opponents hailed a “David-and-Goliath victory”, but rebutted the allegations of bullying and abuse. In response, they accused the diocese of failing to consult the community.
Richard Hopton, a barrister, who claimed that turbines would be sited within 200 metres of his home in Chittlehampton, told a local radio station: “One can never condone that sort of thing. As far as I know, all the protesters just put the point robustly, but people were angry. This is an emotive issue.
“The way it went about it created immense anger and frustration. . . It’s very sad that, according to the bishop, this has descended into abuse, but people get wound up. I’m thrilled that the Church has seen the light, and done the decent thing.”
The proposals had been seen as a pilot project for the Church to improve its green credentials, paving the way for similar schemes elsewhere, but the U-turn could now halt other applications.
The decision was explained in a pastoral letter from the Bishop, which was read to congregations in the three villages of Chittlehampton, Black Torrington, and East Anstey during Sunday services.
In it, he apologised for failing to consult earlier in the process, but condemned “hostility and aggression” that was, he said, disproportionate to the plans.
“I, and many of my colleagues, have received very unpleasant letters,” he wrote, “and those who have attended meetings in a genuine effort to explain the thinking behind our proposals have been shouted down and called liars. Given the hostility, now is not the time to move ahead with our plans.”
He was saddened that the Church had been portrayed, wrongly, as attacking the Devon countryside.
The chairman of East Anstey Parish Council, Peter Wood, said that a public meeting had been “swamped” with “pushy” turbine protesters from outside the parish.
“There was wrongdoing on both sides,” he said. “The diocese did not consult properly, but I’m saddened that we can’t debate this sensibly, with reason and respect. I think people were rather intimidated to speak in favour of it.”