Wind farm up and turning
The county's biggest wind farm is up and running – and producing enough electricity to power about 12,300 homes a year.
The final contractors left the site of Swinford wind farm, near Lutterworth, last week.
It follows 10 months of hectic activity installing equipment at the site, and the 11 completed 410ft-tall (125m) wind turbines can be seen for miles.
Publican Brian Priest, who runs The Chequers, in Swinford, said villagers were now learning to live with the wind farm on their doorstep. He said: "As a publican, I tried to stay neutral but, now they are up, I have to say you hardly see them from the village unless you are driving in or out.
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"And, apart from the swooshing sound if you're up close, the noise is barely audible.
"That's not to say people who were against the scheme have changed their minds, just that general feeling is one of 'well, they're there now and we've got to live with it'."
Thousands of people objected to the scheme, claiming the turbines would spoil the landscape and create noise. Opponents spent £55,000 on a campaign to stop the project but it was given the go-ahead, after a three-week inquiry, in December 2009 by then Secretary of State for Communities John Denham.
Now the wind farm is up and running, a fund will soon be available to communities which will provide £44,000 annually for the 25-year life of the project.
Michael Murphy, chairman of Swinford Parish Council, said the focus was now on deciding where to spend the money.
"Some people were for the wind farm, others dead against it and many indifferent," he said. "I was for the scheme as I'm a supporter of green energy.
"Opinions haven't changed but the same people are now working to get the best deal for their communities."
A steering group has been set up to help administer the fund, with the early suggestions including a bus service to take youngsters to youth clubs and activities in Lutterworth and investment in play provision at schools.
Sian Ponting, a youth worker at the Rural Youth Voice Project, which is represented on the steering group, said: "Young people were invited to visit the wind farm to see it in action.
"Many were concerned about noise but now it's up and running they quite like it.
"Not only are they learning about renewable energy, but they are having a say on how the funding can benefit communities."
Will Wason, Swinford Wind Energy construction manager for energy firm Vattenfall, said: "The turbines produce 22Mw (megawatts) of clean, renewable energy – enough to power about 12,300 homes."
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