Campaigners reacted with anger yesterday after a study concluded that a swathe of moorland in Northumberland is capable of accommodating two controversial wind farm projects.
npower renewables wants permission for 18 massive turbines at Middlemoor, north of Alnwick, and RidgeWind Ltd is seeking the green light for 10 at nearby Wandylaw.
Each would tower 125m from base to rotor blade tip.
Both applications have been strongly opposed by local campaigners who fear the North Northumberland landscape is at risk of being invaded by scores of turbines at a number of different locations.
Now a landscape capacity study commissioned by the North-East Assembly has concluded that the moorland around North and South Charlton is capable of accommodating both.
Consultants Arup – in their recommended develop-ment scenario for the area – say it could absorb the 28 turbines proposed for the two schemes. Next week county councillors will be recommended by planning officers to raise no strategic objection to the Wandylaw application, which proposes an installation capable of powering up to 15,000 homes.
Last month county councillors also supported the Middlemoor bid, despite claims by protesters that it will ruin the landscape and harm tourism.
A public inquiry will now be held into the Middlemoor scheme, after Alnwick district councillors opposed it earlier this week.
The Wandylaw proposal will be determined by Berwick Borough Council.
Yesterday anti-wind farm protesters reacted with horror to the report.
South Charlton farmer Robert Thorp said: “It is patently obvious that the pressure is on to push these wind farms onto landscapes which should not have them at all. Middlemoor and Wandylaw are next to each other and all the same arguments apply.
“To have 18, 125m-high turbines at Middlemoor is bad enough but to bolt on another 10 would make this by far the biggest installation in England and Wales.”
He added: “It beggars belief and is quite ridiculous in an area where we are trying to promote the beauty of the landscape.”
Belford parish councillor Geoff O’Connell urged county councillors to closely examine the implications of supporting both bids, amid fears that the North Northumberland landscape could be faced with up to 100 turbines.
He said: “There is a very high level of feeling up here that these turbines would be monstrous industrial impositions on a beautiful county.”
‘Enough capacity’ on moors
The landscape capacity study for the North/South Charlton area is one of several commissioned by the North-East Assembly to help inform the decision-making process on wind farm applications.
Consultants Arup have carried out a technical assessment of the local moorland’s capacity to absorb a range of wind energy developments and the potential landscape and visual impact of turbines.
A report to county councillors next week says if the approach advocated by the study was followed, the carrying capacity of the North/South Charlton area is deemed sufficient to accommodate both the Middlemoor and Wandylaw schemes.
Warning on costs of an inquiry
A costly public inquiry into a proposed wind farm could affect council services and leave taxpayers footing a huge bill, it was warned yesterday.
Alnwick Distict Council leader Heather Cairns was one of only three dissenting voices to back the controversial 18-turbine Middle-moor proposal on Tuesday night.
As a committed environmentalist, she also said the council should be thinking about more far-reaching consequences than the visual impact of the development, and spoke of the need to address global warming at a local level. The authority’s development control committee voted to object to the application by npower renewables.
The final decision will be taken by the Department of Trade and Industry – but only after a full public inquiry is held, at an anticipated cost of at least £100,000 to the council.
Last night Coun Cairns, who lives on the coast at Newton-by-the-Sea, said that long-term protection of the environment should be the council’s priority. She said: “I find in iniquitous that a small council like ours should bear the huge costs of an inquiry.
“That could well impinge on our ability to deliver and improve services in our district. Wind turbines may be considered a blot on the landscape, but they are a necessary intrusion at this time.”
Deputy leader Coun John Taylor, who led the rejection calls on Tuesday, said: “This is the wrong application in the wrong place.”
By Dave Black
2 March 2007
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