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Skydivers can jump in safety

Supporters of the region’s only skydiving centre were jumping for joy last night after councillors rejected plans to build a 180 foot wind turbine which would have put it out of business.

There was loud applause in a packed council chamber at Easington, County Durham, when councillors overturned their officer’s recommendation and voted out an application to build a turbine next to Shotton Airfield, Peterlee.

Japanese company AKS had applied to the council to build the turbine quarter of a mile from the skydiving centre in order to save £68,000 a year in electricity costs.

But the hearing was told by Jamie Weatherston, a business expert from Newcastle Business School that the savings would be `insignificant’ to AKS, a subsidiary company of Japanese giant NSK. Mr Weatherston said the company had factories in China, Thailand, the USA and Poland and the savings they would make if the turbine was built in Peterlee, where it would save 10% of the annual bill, were `immaterial’.

Other speakers against the application included Adam Henchoz, president of Newcastle University Parachute Society, who said: “If the airfield was to close then our society would also close.

“Students couldn’t afford to travel to the next nearest parachute centre at Bridlington, 110 miles away.”

And Mike Sand, a microlight aircraft enthusiast said: “Peterlee is the only microlight centre between York and north of Morpeth and provides an excellent facility.”

Airfield owner Ian Rosenvinge, 50, a former British Army skydiver from Whitley Bay, told a hearing his centre had attracted around 40,000 visitors to east Durham over five years.

“They all contribute to the local economy by using the shops and filling up with petrol at Easington or Peterlee. We are not as big as AKS but we are not insignificant.

“If the turbine is built where AKS want it this would spell the end for my business because it would be unsafe for novice and student skydivers to jump.”

After councillors voted to reject the turbine a delighted Mr Rosenvinge said: “Now we can look forward but I sincerely hope that AKS can find a suitable location for the turbine which will not affect my business.

“It has been a very worrying time and I genuinely believed that, if the councillors voted for the turbine I would lose my home. I have invested everything in this business.”

By Neil Mckay, The Journal

Feb 7 2007