Plans for a series of wind farms which would result in 26 giant turbines being erected in north Northumberland should be scaled down, according to a long-awaited report by independent consultants.
Protest groups have been set up to oppose the controversial bids for three separate wind farms south and west of Berwick at Moorsyde, Barmoor and Toft Hill – amid claims they will ruin the landscape and harm the important local tourism industry.
As well as the three live applications, wind farm developers are also interested in a number of other sites in the borough, such as Halidon Hill and Murton near Berwick and Bewick Moor near Chillingham.
Now an independent study has concluded that the area can only accommodate about 10 to 15 turbines in total – around half the number currently proposed by green energy companies.
Consultants Arup – who have been commissioned by the North-East Assembly to assess the impact of wind farm development on several landscapes in the region – say the Berwick area should only be asked to take up to 30 to 40 megawatts of generating capacity.
Last night, anti-wind farm campaigners welcomed the results of the study and said it confirmed their claims that the landscape south and west of Berwick was too important and sensitive to accommodate the numbers of wind turbines being proposed.
Andrew Joicey, who farms at Cornhill-on-Tweed and is a member of the Save Our Unspoiled Landscape group, said: “The study is very thorough and it concludes that this area does not have the capacity for development of the scale being put forward by many developers.
“Action groups will still look to fight individual applications which they feel are inappropriate, and there are planning reasons why each of the current proposals should be refused.
“This report might just make wind farm developers think that their plans are not so viable economically.”
A spokesman for the Moorsyde Action Group said they welcomed the study’s findings that poorly designed turbine arrays that were not properly scaled and located would have major adverse impacts on the landscape and living conditions of local people.
Berwick MP Alan Beith said: “The findings of the study underline how impossible it is to deal with these applications separately. As I have argued all along, there should be a single public inquiry at which they are all considered together.”
Berwick borough councillors are due to finally consider the Moorsyde, Barmoor and Toft Hill wind farm applications in September. They are also facing an application for 10 turbines at Wandylaw near the border with Alnwick district, but this area has been examined in a separate wind energy study by Arup.
Last night, borough council director of regeneration and development, Shona Alexander, said: “We welcome this study, which gives us an objective view of the impact which wind farm developments could have here in Berwick borough, where we have some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.
“We will now include the study in our assessments of all wind farm planning applications currently being considered.”
Malcolm Bowes, deputy chief executive for the North-East Assembly, said: “This cutting edge study provides an objective assessment of the impact that wind farm development would have on the south and west of Berwick landscape and has concluded that high levels of development would not be appropriate.”
By Dave Black
20 June 2007
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