Moorsyde Action Group (MAG) has expressed surprise at Berwick Borough Council’s decision not to wait until a new study is published before making its decision on a wind farm application.
Planners intend to decide on the Moorsyde proposal for ten turbines near Felkington and Allerdean on February 6, without the benefit of an Arup Wind Farm Development Study which is due to be published later in the month.
A MAG spokesman said: “It seems quite extraordinary that the opportunity to make an informed decision is being rejected because the Borough will not countenance three weeks’ delay to an application that has been with the planners for two years.”
The borough council has claimed that it does not need to wait for the Arup Report because members were advised by the Assembly that it is not essential for local planning authorities to wait for the completion of the study before they make a decision.
MAG claims that this is a highly selective interpretation of a letter from the NEA to the Authority and say it omits advice which gives local authorities the option of waiting for the study if they think it will be helpful. The council claim that they can decide the ‘Moorsyde’ application on information provided by a ‘Planning and Visual Impact Appraisal’ report that they commissioned from consultants Ferguson McIlveen. MAG has repeatedly raised concerns about the claims made for this document.
Their spokesman states: “The suggestion that the Ferguson McIlveen report somehow duplicates the Arup study is, frankly, ludicrous. It is no more than a brief desk study of planning guidance and some of the photomontages associated with the proposal; it involved a single site visit.
“The Ferguson McIlveen report itself recognises its limitations and concludes, in its single paragraph on landscape capacity for wind development: ‘Further assessment will be necessary of the wider landscape context to confirm these initial thoughts’.”
By coincidence, on the same day that the borough outlined its reasons for not waiting for the local Arup Report, the NEA issued a statement on the latest Arup study of the Kiln Pit Hill wind farm landscape in Tynedale. This stated: “The results of an independent study into wind farm development at Kiln Pit Hill in Northumberland have been published and point out the need to reflect important local landscape constraints before granting permission for any wind farm development.”
Tynedale Council suspended consideration of all planning applications in its area until this, and the previous Arup study in the Knowesgate and Harwood area, were both published.
The MAG spokesman concluded: “It is a pity that our planning authority is prepared to rush to judgement on a single application and, in so doing, jeopardise the results of the Arup study and the sensible siting and scaling of all wind farms in the borough.
“They seem more concerned to defend the council’s short term
interests than in bringing an objective insight to the decision making process and safeguarding the future of our landscape and local communities.”