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Airport says turbines could confuse radar

Aircraft safety fears could make a drugs group drop a plan to use wind power to cut energy costs and help protect 165 jobs at its Northumberland factory.

Bosses at Aesica Pharmaceuticals want to erect two wind turbines next to their plant in Cramlington in an effort to cut its £407,000-a-year electricity bill by about 40%.

But tomorrow, councillors will be recommended by planning officers to reject the green energy scheme for the second time in three months because Newcastle Airport says the turbines would pose a risk to aircraft. Blyth Valley Council refused Aesica’s application for two 140m turbines in August after airport chiefs objected, saying the structures would interfere with radar. Now the firm has submitted a revised application – lowering the turbines’ height by 30m – but the airport has maintained its opposition.

Yesterday, Aesica finance director Adam Sims said if the revised scheme were rejected, the company would seriously have to consider dropping it.

“We have made significant concessions from the last application and we would have to come to the conclusion that we can’t see a way through this. I am just bitterly disappointed and I don’t know where we go with this project. Everyone from the Government down is telling us we need to do these environmentally friendly projects and support renewable energy, but here we have nowhere to go.

“We have lowered the height of the turbines and engaged a consultant who used to be an air traffic controller to give us advice on what the issues might be with the airport.

“He can see no issues with the reduced height, but the airport still refuses to withdraw its objection. The airport have not been able to tell us how low the turbines would have to be – only that we would have to persuade them they were safe.” Friends of the Earth supports the plan, but airport bosses say air traffic controllers might not be able to distinguish between the turbines and aircraft.

An airport spokesman said: “As visible moving targets, the returns have the potential to manifest and resemble a fast-moving aircraft. This may result in air traffic control having to take avoiding action and vector aircraft away from this area. This in turn could impact on the safe operation of aircraft in the vicinity of Newcastle International Airport.

“It should also be noted that we are working closely with the developers on a number of potential solutions in order to resolve these issues.”

A spokesman for Government environment department Defra said it was a matter for the local planning authorities.

By Dave Black, The Journal