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June 08 2012

Another wind turbine rouses campaigners on Yorkshire's coastal cliffs

Protests supported by David Hockney are revived, as proposals for a Flambrough tower replace those recently withdrawn near Bempton's famous seabird reserve

Local people's defeat of a controversial wind turbine proposal at Bempon, close to the famous seabird nesting cliffs on the Yorkshire coast, has been followed by only the briefest of respites.

The call to arms has gone out again almost immediately, to fight a similar application close to South Landing and Danes Dyke on that famous county landmark, Flamborough Head.

Taller by 25 feet than Flamborough lighthouse at 112 feet, the tower is the latest of an extraordinary run of applications in the East Riding which have aroused huge concern and been the subject of previous Guardian Northerner posts. Opponents include David Hockney whose work and crowd-pulling exhibitions at Saltaire and the Royal Academy have been a tonic for visitor numbers to the quiet beauties of the Wolds this year.

Bempton parish council and the town council in Bridlington, where Hockney lives much of the time, voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday 6 June to object to the latest planning application. Flamborough parish council meets on Monday and is expected to take a similar view. Holiday camp owners, buoyed up by the Government's recent U-turn on VAT and static caravans, are joining the campaign.

The tower would be built at Hartendale Farm, some 600 metres from Flamborough village and fewer than 250 metres from the noble cliffs. David Hinde of No to Wolds Windfarms says:

The site is surrounded by some of the most important wildlife sites in the whole of the UK as well as the Flamborough Headland Heritage Coast Landscape, designated by Natural England and with the highest protection rating possible

The turbine would be be highly visually intrusive from Bridlington bay, Bempton cliffs, many parts of Flamborough, the heritage features of the ancient Danes Dyke earthwork and coastal footpaths around South Landing as well as the country park heritage trail.

Campaigners are also determined to keep turbines out of a proposed 'Yorkshire nature triangle' which would link the famous Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserve at Bempton cliffs to the Living Seas Centre which is being built at South Landing. The RSPB plans to expand its facilities and the project is reckoned to have great potential in terms of attracting more visitors and creating tourism jobs.

So far, East Riding of Yorkshire district council has received 36 objections to the new application. The Bempton turbine, proposed for Norway farm on Cliff Lane, was withdrawn after 169 objections and well-publicised protests from local people, visitors to the bird reserve and the Ministry of Defence which has radar facilities at nearby Staxton Wold.

The Hartendale farm application is Ref 12/01846/PLF and can be seen on the East Riding council's website or via County Hall, Beverley HU17 9BA Tel: 01482 393939. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

June 13 2011

Eco-friendly mosque planned for Germany

Norderstedt's Muslim community to build a £2m mosque with wind turbines in its minarets

A small Muslim community in northern Germany is pioneering renewable energy sources by planning to build a mosque with wind turbines in its minarets.

The €2.5m (£2.2m) project would see the mosque in Norderstedt, near Hamburg, become one of the first to turn the minaret, the place from which the muezzin called the faithful to prayer, into a wind-fuelled power source.

The eco-friendly building is the brainchild of the Hamburg architect Selcuk Ünyilmaz, who has long incorporated energy efficiency into his work. "I thought about how we could give sacral architecture an ecological focus," he said. "My design combines the modern with the traditional, so I wanted to give the minarets a contemporary function."

The wind turbines will be housed in two 22-metre-high minarets and Ünyilmaz plans to install a pair of 1.5-metre glass rotor blades in each tower. At certain times of the day light will be beamed at the blades to create a kind of light show.

Until now the 200-strong congregation, part of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, has made do with a 100-year-old building ill-equipped to house a religious community. But last month local authorities approved plans for the project, which will measure about 1,300 sq metres and comprise two parts, the mosque and a larger building containing shops, travel agents, a cafe, hairdresser and offices.

"We want to create a meeting place for people from all religions and nationalities," Ugur Sütcü, the chairman of the Norderstedt congregation, told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper. "There will be advisory services on offer, as well as social, cultural and sporting activities."

In order to persuade some of the more sceptical members of the congregation of the merits of his the design, Ünyilmaz looked for other mosques with similar wind turbines. But he could not find any other examples that had already been built.

The German mosque will not be the first of its kind, however, as the Islamic missionary group Tablighi Jamaat is also planning to build an environmentally friendly mosque with wind turbines in its minarets in time for the London 2012 Olympics.

Ünyilmaz's scheme has come at a fortuitous time. Germany has approved a 2022 exit from nuclear energy and there is pressure to make up the shortfall by boosting the renewable energy sector.

The community in Norderstedt might be in tune with the energy zeitgeist but is does not yet have funds for the project. However this is not something Sütcü is too worried about. "We are confident that we can raise the money," he said.

The coastal town is perfectly situated for wind energy production, and the minarets will help cover the building's overheads, providing about a third of its energy. Ünyilmaz said that was one of the reasons he opted for turbines instead of solar panels, which would not produce electricity at night. "We are in the north and I don't think there's a day here that isn't windy," he said. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

July 18 2010

Spin city

It is the world's first skyscraper with built-in wind turbines. But is London's Strata a green gimmick – or the future? Jonathan Glancey takes to the skies

I am standing on the wind-buffeted tip of the Strata tower, looking out through the blades of what appear to be an enormous propeller, at the London skyline and the green basin beyond. St Paul's cathedral, across the river, seems close enough to touch. It's the kind of view, and the kind of heroically stylised building, you would expect to see in some 1930s sci-fi movie: the perfect place for a hero and a villain to have a rooftop showdown.

At 147 metres, the newly opened Strata is London's tallest residential building. The nine-metre blades I'm standing beneath are housed in one of three wind turbines that crown this new tower soaring above Elephant and Castle, an area of the city not known for flashy penthouses. But Elephant and Castle is undergoing a massive, if slow, transition from a rundown miasma of noisy road intersections, underpasses and vast housing estates into what the Borough of Southwark hopes will be a £1.5bn model of inner-city regeneration.

The plan was first made public six years ago and work is unlikely to be completed before 2020. It's a colossal challenge, as well as an opportunity, and the £113.5m Strata, the first of three skyscrapers planned for here, is a symbol of the dynamism and energy the project demands. And that energy must, of course, be seen to be green. It's early days, but if the turbines work as planned, and aren't too noisy for residents in the pricey penthouses beneath them, they should generate 8% of this 43-storey building's energy needs. This is roughly enough to run its electrical and mechanical services (including three express lifts and automated window-cleaning rigs) as well as the lighting, heating and ventilation of its public spaces, which include an underground car and cycle park.

Strata is the first building in the world to incorporate wind turbines into its structure. Yes, the new Bahrain World Trade Centre in Manama, by the firm Atkins, also boasts three giant turbines, but these are set on steel struts connecting its twin towers, not part of the actual towers themselves. While I can vouch for the strength of the south-westerlies that will turn Strata's blades, whether its turbines will set a precedent for future British towers is less clear: this rooftop was exceedingly hard to construct, almost prohibitively so, every part of it having to be hauled up.

However, what the three fans do, without a doubt, is give Strata a striking profile. Whether you find this exciting, disturbing or simply over-the-top will be down to personal taste, yet it's no surprise the tower has been dubbed the Electric Razor, not just because of its whirling blades but also because of its black and silver lines that seem to pixellate upwards; Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has called it the Lipstick.

So what do green experts think? "You've got to take your hat off to the design team for delivering a building that captures the imagination," says Paul King, head of the UK Green Building Council. "I doubt wind power will become a common feature in high-rise inner city projects, but without this type of bold innovation, how would we ever know? Developments like this show that sustainability is increasingly becoming mainstream. That's something everyone should celebrate."

Including the 1,000 or so people who have already moved into – or bought into – Strata's 408 flats (each boasting floor-to-ceiling windows). And there is a difference between the two. Nearly every flat was bought off-plan, before construction began, 50-75% of them by investors. This is a shame: the whole idea of the tower is that it should be a guiding light for new inner-city residential development. This is meant to be a home for local people, not a machine for property market profiteering.

Indeed, 25% of the flats, on floors two to 10, are "affordable homes", for those on incomes of less than £60,000 (in central London that kind of money won't guarantee a home of your own); meanwhile, a three-floor pavilion to the side of the tower has been given to council residents leaving the soon-to-be-demolished Aylesbury Estate, a 1960s housing complex seen by most as an enormous failure. Tony Blair made his first speech as prime minister at this estate, in a bid to show his government would care for the poorest elements in society.

To my mind, Strata's big propellers give the building the feel of an airship holding aloft the passenger cabins (or flats) below. Or perhaps it's more like an old-fashioned transatlantic liner with its complement of first-, second-and third-class passengers. I think of this as architect Ian Bogle, of London-based BFLS (formerly Hamiltons Architects), leads me through the tall, narrow lobby to the lifts that shoot silently up to the residential floors.

'You feel like you own the city'

The views are spectacular. Most front doors open directly onto gaping vistas of London, framed by giant windows. They are not for the faint-hearted. Bogle goes to open what looks like a door at the side of a window and I think he might vanish into the ether. As it happens, he's simply opening a perforated screen designed to let fresh air in. "We've tried to get as much daylight and fresh air as possible into the flats," says Bogle. "You certainly feel as if you own the entire city from up here."

Indeed you do. There are magic moments, too: way below, trains race in and out of buildings and seem to pass through the tower itself. It reminds me of the super-modern city drawn by Antonio Sant'Elia, the Italian futurist architect, shortly before the first world war. His Città Nuova was a dynamic, machine-like metropolis through which cars and even aircraft would pass, via openings in the buildings. His imaginings inspired film-makers, from William Cameron Menzie's Things to Come in 1936, to Ridley Scott's Blade Runner in 1982; they also resonated in city developments as dramatic and diverse as the Barbican, the Pompidou and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. And they echo today in these views from the Strata tower, and in its mighty turbines.

But are they just a tokenistic green gimmick? Or will they propel us towards a new urban architecture, one that's cinematically thrilling and ecologically sound? Until its sibling towers rise and the redevelopment of Elephant and Castle is complete, it will be hard to properly judge Strata. Right now, it stands alone, a sleek silver sentinel, towering over the follies of the recent past. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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