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"˜Windfarms will drive tourists away'  

hexham-courant.co.uk

By Helen Compson

Windfarms could blight our countryside and our tourism industry, warns the new Northumberland tourism partnership.

But the views of Northumberland Tourism have whipped up a storm in Tynedale.

The district’s windfarm objectors have warmly welcomed the stance of the first big player to fight their corner.

However, two major wind power developers based in Hexham believe the fledgling body should take a closer look at the facts.

Northumberland Tourism was launched earlier this year with regional heavyweight Mike Parker at its helm. He is the former director general of Nexus, Tyne and Wear’s passenger transport executive, who lives in Hexham.

The tourism partnership is now calling for an urgent independent study into the impact windfarms could have on the county as a top holiday destination.

The plea comes in the wake of a rush of renewable energy applications.

Four of them centre on the Kirkwhelpington and Knowesgate area, where upwards of 100 turbines could be erected.

Another eight, 360-feet high turbines are planned for Kiln Pit Hill.

A proposal to install 80 turbines in Kielder Forest is still hovering in the background despite an initial rejection by planners in 2002.

And there are plans to establish 24 turbines near Haltwhistle, which campaigners say will be seen from the World Heritage Site of Hadrian’s Wall.

Northumberland Tourism is worried about research by VisitScotland that reveals 38 per cent of visitors felt windfarms “spoiled the scenery” and 26 per cent would be less likely to visit an area where there were windfarms.

Mr Parker said: “These are alarming findings. They show the potential damage they could cause.

“Most people come here because of the wonderful natural environment and this is in danger of being blighted by so many windfarms.

“We want more visitors to come here ““ not less. We need the impact on tourism to be an integral part of the planning process.”

Kiln Pit Hill action group member Steve McIntyre said he was delighted with the tourism partnership’s stand.

“Up until now objectors have not had a lot of support,” he said.

“Kiln Pit Hill is next to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and many people in this area earn their livelihoods from tourism.”

However, David Hodkinson, the managing director of wind power developer AMEC, was critical of the partnership.

He said: “Northumberland Tourism was only established in April 2006 and therefore was not involved in the development of our proposal for a windfarm on the Ray Estate, near Kirkwhelpington.

“However, we will be seeking to work with them throughout the future development of the proposal, and hope that in the future they thoroughly research issues before they talk to the media in such an ill-considered way.

“The ‘recent research’ referred to by Northumberland Tourism’s chairman was carried out in July 2002, and since its publication the methodology behind the report has been called into question.

“There have been a number of other surveys conducted since then that show stronger public support for windfarms.”

The North-East development manager for Wind Prospect Ltd, Tim Matthews, said he actually agreed with the implication that a windfarm had to be in the right place.

“We wouldn’t want to be associated with a development that had a negative impact on the surrounding landscape or that damaged tourism,” he said.

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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