Protesters are urging council chiefs to overrule their own planning department and force a public inquiry into plans for 18 wind turbines on a Northumberland hillside.
Officers at Alnwick District Council sparked a backlash from objectors last night, after giving their sanction to npower’s controversial proposal for Middlemoor, just off the A1 at South Charlton.
Northumberland County Council has already backed the bid, to the dismay of local residents, who say it will ruin an area of outstanding beauty.
Despite hundreds of letters of objection flooding into the council and the DTI, Alnwick District’s planning department is now recommending its committee members to raise no objections, subject to “appropriate conditions” being met.
The committee’s decision next Tuesday will then go to the Department of Trade and Industry, which will make a final ruling on the array of 125m-high masts.
But if councillors reject their officers’ recommendation, it will spark a public inquiry where developers and objectors will put their cases before a planning inspector.
Last night South Charlton farmer and holiday chalet owner Robert Thorp, 55, said: “Anyone who cares about Northumberland feels badly let down by the planners’ stance.
“We’re also very concerned that the planning department seems to be basing its recommendations on the interim report of the pending Ove Arup study.
“The full report has not been scrutinised because it hasn’t been released yet. This application must ultimately go to a public inquiry – it’s the only way it can be fairly scrutinised by all parties concerned.
“We hope that the democratically elected members of the planning committee will follow this view, which is also strongly expressed by local parish councils.
“This development is right on the skyline, and will have a significant adverse affect on the area.”
But in the report, director of environment and regeneration Paul Gee says: “It is unavoidable that development on the scale proposed would give rise to local and wider landscape, visual and amenity impacts.
“Should the Secretary of State intend to grant planning permission, he must be satisfied that the wider benefits arising through renewable energy generation outweigh any harm caused to those interests where significant and adverse impacts are anticipated.
“No other substantive issues have been identified that conflict with Development Plan policy or material considerations that would outweigh the benefits from renewable energy generation that the application would deliver.”
npower says the development is vital in an age of global warming and would provide electricity to 27,000 homes.
It claims Middlemoor could generate enough electricity to meet the annual average needs of every home in Alnwick and Berwick districts without emitting any carbon dioxide.
The planning committee will meet next Tuesday at 6.30pm in the council chamber at Clayport Street, Alnwick.
By Robert Brooks
22 February 2007
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