Planners who turned down a paralysed man’s dreams for a specially-equipped home because it would be a blot on the landscape have started the ball rolling towards a multi-million pound wind farm right on the doorstep.
Last July Tynedale Council refused permission for Ali Johnson’s father, Ken, to build the three-bed bungalow on the grounds of his own home at Wolf Hills Farm, Coanwood, near Haltwhistle in Northumberland, saying that regulations didn’t allow for any new developments in open countryside because they wouldn’t fit in with the surroundings.
The house would have been equipped with a carer’s room, physiotherapy room and two guest bedrooms to help with the 26-year-old’s full-time care after he was paralysed from the neck down in a rugby accident in September 2004. The decision was met with anger by Ali’s family and friends and his carers started a petition which gathered more than 4,000 signatures within the first few days, including those of the Newcastle Falcons rugby squad.
But the same council has now decided those rules and regulations don’t apply to a 165ft wind speed recording mast despite admitting in it’s own documents that it “would represent an intrusive feature” and be “alien and incongruous” – because it would only be in place for three years.
Yet that same mast, according to Doncaster-based Harworth Power which applied for planning permission, could eventually be used to try to get the go ahead for up to 24 permanent giant wind turbines above rural Northumberland.
When The Journal broke the news of the turbine plan to Mr Johnson snr, 58, he said: “The hypocrisy is unbelievable.
“The council turned down plans for the bungalow because they said it would be too intrusive in the countryside, even though it was designed to fit in with the existing property on the site.
“But just this week we learned that permission was given for a giant mast which is the very epitome of intrusive and plans are afoot for even bigger wind turbines.
“How can they decide a bungalow contravenes their criteria but these things can be overlooked? I’m absolutely furious.”
He added: “Tynedale does not seem to accept Ali needs a specialist building to live in for the rest of his life.”
A spokesman for Harworth Power said the data from the mast will determine the size of the turbine “cluster”, if one is built at all, although it could be up to 24 units strong.
He said wind strength and direction will be tested and any further application will be subject to consultation with the local community.
Helen Winter, Director of Planning at Tynedale Council, said: “Planning permission has been granted for a 50m-high temporary wind monitoring mast for a period of three years. Whilst it will be an incongruous feature within this area of high landscape value, close to the North Pennines, it is required only for a temporary period in order to collect data on wind speed, and conditions are attached to ensure the mast is removed at the end of the period and the land reinstated.
“The collection of such data is important in terms of global warming and the need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
“This permission does not in itself set any precedent with regard to the determination of any future applications for wind turbines in this location.”
She said she would be working with Mr Johnson’s family to find a way to meet his needs along with local and national planning policies.
By Murray Kelso, The Journal
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