Protesters fighting plans for the region’s biggest wind farm have been dealt a major blow, after a long-awaited independent study backed a 28-turbine development on moors in Northumberland.
The study, by award-winning consultants Ove Arup and commissioned by the North-East Assembly, says the site at North and South Charlton, near Alnwick, could accommodate 100 megawatts of wind energy.
Two wind-farms are currently proposed in the area – one with 18 turbines at Middlemoor, by Npower Renewables, and a second of 10 turbines by RidgeWind Ltd at neighbouring Wandylaw.
Although separate entities, locals say they are geographically close enough to effectively form a single cluster.
The Middlemoor application, which could generate as much as 75 megawatts of energy, is currently lodged with the Department for Trade and Industry, and will be the subject of a full public inquiry.
Wandylaw, at a smaller 20-30 megawatts, is awaiting a decision by Berwick Borough Council, although campaigners want to see it dealt with at the same hearing. South Charlton farmer Robert Thorp said residents would be dismayed by the new report’s findings.
“These developments combined will stretch for several kilometres end to end along the skyline,” he said.
“There’s no way they can be absorbed by the landscape. The turbines for Middlemoor and Wandylaw are huge, at 125m high, and aggressive in design. It will be impossible to mitigate the effect.”
But Mr Thorp said: “This can only be properly debated at a full public inquiry, and it is there that we will provide evidence to refute the Ove Arup report.
“There’s also the fact that this wind-farm will only produce around 27 megawatts on average, according to the Government’s own figures on turbine efficiency.
“The benefits will certainly not outweigh the detriment to the landscape and local people’s lives.”
Gordon Castle was deputy leader of Alnwick District Council when it first raised objections to Middlemoor back in 2003.
Last night he said: “Whether the landscape can sustain 28 turbines in that location is not scientific, it’s subjective. The council still has serious concerns about the scale of the development proposed, and nothing less than a full public inquiry will suffice before a decision is taken.
“Arup may consider 100MW to be sustainable at North Charlton, but that does not reflect the sheer weight of public opinion.”
But Malcolm Bowes, deputy chief executive for the North-East Assembly, said: “This cutting-edge study provides an objective assessment of the impact that windfarm development would have on the North and South Charlton landscape.
“The study concludes that the landscape can accommodate approximately 100 megawatts of wind energy.
“With the developer interest in wind farm development in Northumberland gathering pace, the findings of this study help to inform the difficult decisions that the DTI and local planning authorities will need to make on which locations might be acceptable.”
The assembly says it will now be working with Alnwick and Berwick councils and the local parish councils to arrange a public event to discuss the findings of the study.
By Robert Brooks, The Journal
11 April 2007
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