A public inquiry is to be held to determine plans for a wind farm near North Charlton.
Alnwick District Council this week went against advice to object to the 18-turbine development at Middlemoor because members said it would have an adverse impact on the landscape.
That decision automatically triggers a public inquiry.
Officers had said there were no policy grounds for rejecting the bid but councillors said the strength of opinion against npower renewables’ plans meant that the move was necessary, whatever the cost.
The meeting on Tuesday heard that a public inquiry could cost taxpayers up to £100,000 and members were warned this could impact on service delivery in the district.
Campaigners fighting the development, and who had called for a public inquiry, said they were delighted at the decision.
Proposing the motion to object, local member Coun John Taylor said he had never had as much correspondence to a subject than he has had to this.
He said: “I haven’t had one person in favour of this application.
“This needs to be tested at a public inquiry. Democracy has its cost and we must be prepared to fund that.
“This is the wrong application in the wrong place and its impact on the landscape and our tourist economy will have serious consequences.
“The proposed development is irreversible in the extreme.
“If we allow this through without testing it at a public inquiry we will be opening the door to a whole rash of turbines generated along something like 10km of land along that ridge.”
Twenty parish councils objected to the scheme and Coun Taylor said he received 170 letters against it.
District officers had put forward that members call on the Secretary of State to decide to hold a public inquiry, while maintaining no objections be raised.
Supporting Coun Taylor, Coun Gordon Castle said: “It is our clear and absolute duty to call for a public inquiry.
“The Secretary of State cannot be trusted to look after the interests of the local constituents as we can.
“We have to support this whatever the cost, we have to pay it.”
Coun Roger Styring added: “Alnwick District Council should send a clear and unambiguous message to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that Middlemoor is not an appropriate site for a wind farm.”
All members except Couns Heather Cairns, Ken Gray and Betty Gray voted to object to the plans.
Council leader Coun Cairns said: “I believe we will have a wind farm whatever we say so let’s have the biggest one in our district, be the greenest district and get the most benefits.”
She added: “As leader of the council I don’t think we will be able to deliver
services to the people of Alnwick district if this goes head. The cost of that inquiry will be prohibitive.”
Opponent Rob Thorp, of Charlton Hall, said after the meeting: “We are very pleased the council has followed the views of the great majority of people in the area.”
When asked about the costs involved, he said: “That’s the price of democracy, apparently.”
The DTI was to determine the plan, due to its size. It was backed by Northumberland County Council earlier this month.
Clare Wilson, npower renewables’ development manager, said: “The decision by Alnwick district councillors will mean further delays as we await a public inquiry and will mean local taxpayers’ money being spent holding an inquiry with no planning policy basis for objection.
“The council will have to defend an objection that contradicts its own planning department’s recommendation as well as the county council’s recommendation and that of three separate reports into the scope for building wind farms in the area.”
1 March 2007
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