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Concern over rules bending in the wind

Some of the North’s top landscapes are under threat because of an “assault on the rules” by developers, rural campaigners will say today.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has listed the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Northumberland National Park among “jewels in the crown” which are under threat from development.

CPRE members say that plans for a massive wind farm at Plenmeller, near Haltwhistle, Northumberland, would impact on both areas and has called on planning authorities to block the project.

The call has come just days after Harworth Power, a subsidiary of former Ellington mine operators UK Coal, put in a planning application for a test mast on Plenmeller which could lead to a wind farm on the site.

Company bosses say the wind farm is a sign of things to come as the country tries to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. But the CPRE says a number of applications for wind farms in the North-East could blight the region’s countryside.

Dominic Cook, the charity’s Northumberland branch chairman, said: “These structures could be four times the height of the High Level Bridge and that will massively impact on the area around.

“It’s not just Plenmeller in Northumberland. There are dozens of proposals up and down the county, and this creates a great level of concern.”

Tom Oliver, head of rural policy at the CPRE, said: “The whole basis on which the nation’s most beautiful countryside is there to be enjoyed by us all is called into question by a series of damaging proposals.

“Protected landscapes are only protected to the extent that the Government and local authorities obey their own rules. Time and again, it appears that the Government or a local council is tearing up the rules when a significant conflict arises between one of our finest landscapes and another interest.”

Harworth Power has this week lodged a planning application for a mast to test wind speeds at Rock House Fell in Plenmeller. If the trial is successful, the company wants to put up 24 turbines at a height of 92 metres on the moor, saying they would provide power for 40,000 houses.

Company spokesman Stuart Oliver said: “We’re in the process of evaluating the potential of the Plenmeller site.

“We respect the CPRE’s view, but we must also recognise that we all demand energy and that will increasingly come from renewable sources, including harnessing the wind.”

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By Graeme Whitfield, The Journal