Tourism chiefs in Northumberland fear the rush to erect hundreds of giant wind turbines poses a serious threat to the county’s natural beauty and could drive away visitors – and their money.
Northumberland Tourism – the agency set up this year to promote the county’s visitor industry – is the latest player to enter the debate over wind farms.
NT says it is vital that Northumberland’s greatest natural assets – its countryside, coastline and historic castles – are not spoiled by 120m turbines going up in areas where walkers, cyclists and motorists enjoy tranquility and beautiful vistas.
The agency said yesterday it wanted to be closely involved in the planning process, so that the potential impact on tourism of wind farm schemes can be taken into account, and would like to see an independent study carried out.
There are eight planning applications for wind farms in Northumberland with another 17 in the pipeline – almost 300 turbines.
NT board members have also been alarmed at research by VisitScotland which found that 38% of visitors said wind farms spoiled the scenery and 26% felt they would be less likely to visit if wind farms were developed.
NT chairman Mike Parker said yesterday: “Most people come to Northumberland because of the wonderful natural environment and this is in danger of being blighted.
“I am a supporter of wind farms in appropriate places, such as Blyth, where they enhance the area. However, a large part of Northumberland is about people walking, cycling and driving in tranquility and beautiful vistas and we don’t want that destroyed. Cornwall is also worried that turbines could cost it millions of pounds in tourism revenue.”
Lorna Charlton, who runs Cornhills Farm bed and breakfast at Kirkwhelpington, said: “Tourism in Northumberland is in danger of being annihilated by wind farm developments and we have to do something about it now.”
Alison Hill of the British Wind Energy Association, which represents wind farm developers, said there was also extensive research which showed that once turbines were in place, they played a positive role in attracting visitors.
“We commissioned a study by Mori in five top Scottish beauty spots, which showed that when wind farms were operational they were welcome additions to the landscape and became tourist attractions in their own right.
“It found that twice as many people would come back because of the presence of wind farms than would stay away because of them.
“We can understand people being concerned about lots and lots of applications for turbines but we have a robust planning system which ensures they only get built in the right places.”
By Dave Black, The Journal
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