North Northumberland’s biggest proposed wind farm is to go to a public inquiry after being rejected by local planners.
The 18-turbine scheme at Middlemoor, near North Charlton, had been recommended for approval by officers at Alnwick District Council.
However, members of the council’s development control committee voted 14-3 to reject the application by npower renewables because of concerns about its visual impact.
A final ruling will still be made by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) but a public inquiry will have to be staged first to give developers and objectors a chance to put their cases before a planning inspector.
The decision has been welcomed by opponents who said the 125 metre high turbines would ruin an area of outstanding beauty and hit the tourist economy on which the area heavily relies.
Robert Thorp of Charlton Hall, one of the objectors, said: “We hoped the feelings of local people would be heard and it was very encouraging to see that local democracy still works.
“We will be continuing to work very hard to make sure the public inquiry is successful in preserving beautiful parts of Northumberland such as this.
“Wind farms should be offshore, not in attractive parts of the country like this and that is the feeling I got from members of the committee.”
However, npower renewables was dismayed that a scheme to provide electricity for between 27,000 and 38,000 homes – enough to supply every home in Berwick and Alnwick districts – had been further delayed with no planning policy basis for objection.
Planning officers had admitted concerns about the potential threat to the tourism economy of Northumberland but said they could raise no objection on visual and landscape grounds.
But former leader, Coun John Taylor, told the packed meeting there were many reasons to object – only 10 of 66 policies affected by the proposal had been considered by officers.
“We’re talking about 18 steel towers, each over 400 feet high, being set on a ridge that’s 150 metres above sea level. If that isn’t visual impact, I don’t know what is.”
Twenty parish councils had raised objections to the proposal, including Eglingham which also handed in a 63 name petition of opposition. There were 71 letters of objection in total, mostly concerned about the size and visual impact of the turbines and their potentially adverse effect on tourism.
Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership shared concerns about the wind farm’s impact on the surrounding landscape.
The Ministry of Defence said the proposal would interfere with the air defence radar at RAF Brizlee Wood to an unacceptable level.
Council leader Heather Cairns had called for Alnwick District to take the lead in promoting green energy.
Phil Gee, the council’s director of environment and regeneration, said in a report to members: “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.”
Officers had also recommended asking the DTI to consider the deletion of three turbines nearest properties in South Charlton if it considers them to be unduly dominant.
1 March 2007
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