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Flight fears block plans to cut bills  

Two drugs companies in Northumberland have failed in their bids to cut energy bills by installing wind turbines – because of safety fears at Newcastle Airport.

Aesica Pharmaceuticals and Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) – near-neighbours on the outskirts of Cramlington – both applied for permission to put up two turbines next to their plants to halve their electricity bills and help safeguard jobs.

Aesica planned two 110m turbines at its 165-job factory and MSD wanted two 130m turbines near its 400-job plant.

But Blyth Valley councillors rejected the applications yesterday because they have been unable to overcome safety fears raised by Newcastle Airport.

Airport bosses say the four structures could interfere with their radar systems and compromise aircraft safety.

The Ministry of Defence also opposed the MSD application, saying the 130m-high turbines would create “unacceptable interference” for its air defence radar system at Brizlee Wood near Alnwick.

Last night both companies were considering an appeal against the decision by the council’s development control panel.

If they go ahead with an appeal, it would mean the issues of aircraft safety and RAF air surveillance being examined by a public inquiry.

Aesica finance director Adam Sims said: “We are very disappointed and we now have to consider our only remaining options, which are to appeal the decision or drop the idea of turbines.

“An appeal means more expense and we need to feel that the issue is going to be fully explored.”

MSD spokeswoman Amelia James said: “The company is currently considering its options regarding the planning application. The installation of two wind turbines could potentially satisfy half of the site’s electricity requirements, significantly reducing electricity usage and operating costs.”

Panel chairman Coun Jim Clough said: “We remain very concerned by the airport’s claims that these turbines could affect aircraft safety along its flight path.

“We were told they could show up on radar systems and confuse air traffic controllers.

“At the moment, we consider this would be a safety hazard and we refused permission for that reason. If the companies appeal, it may be that a public inquiry is the best forum to sort this whole issue out.”

A Newcastle Airport spokeswoman said: “We believe the development of wind turbines in this area will impact on the safe and appropriate operations at the airport. We are committed to finding technical mitigation in regard to the possible impacts of turbines.”

By Dave Black, The Journal
Feb 1 2007


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