Alastair Gilmour talks to one couple who risk watching their dreams being shattered by giant white wind turbines.
It may look like a dilapidated farm steading at the moment, but an unremarkable group of buildings represents an enterprising future for Reg and Tamsin Watson.
The huddled settlement the couple are planning to restore is, in countryside measurements, two fields away from a proposed wind turbine that will, with its eight “sisters” at Moorsyde, dominate their view of north Northumberland and the Borders. Metric measurements come in at 600 metres, but when the mast and blades also take up 110 metres of sky, the structure will appear very close indeed.
For the time being, the couple are happy to be known as “outsiders” but they realise they have been captivated by the sheer beauty and peaceful calm of Ancroft Southmoor, near Allerdean, and its extraordinary surroundings. They’ve made a considerable financial investment and are devoting all their spare hours to convert cottages, grain stores and byres into holiday homes, craft units and a permanent home for themselves.
“The longer we spend here, the more engaging it becomes,” says Tamsin, who intends to work from home while Reg commutes to Edinburgh. Eventually, they will sell one of the converted cottages to help finance the whole project.
“We hoped to invest in the area, to work here, to attract visitors to the cottages and develop other tourism opportunities. If we can’t, it means the whole lot will collapse.
“It blights us directly. There has been no noise measurement done here at Southmoor. We’re unusually in the prevailing wind from the West – eight houses in total – and we’re completely downwind of a clutch of six turbines where there’s much more chance of overlapping noise levels, plus vibration.
“The Moorsyde site can’t meet the 35-decibel noise limit that the Environmental Statement demands – and if they can’t meet it, surely they should go away and think again. It all gets terribly technical.
“The proposals at Felkington (the nearby farm which has agreed to host the turbines) are horrendous; they’re far too close and if they followed planning guidelines, they’d be much further away.” In common with virtually everyone who is affected by windfarm plans, the Watsons sympathise with their farming neighbours who have opted for 360-foot turbines on their prime agricultural land. To most of them, it’s financial salvation.
Tamsin says: “They were offered huge money and it would have been difficult for anybody to it turn down. We understand that. Everybody here is fighting tooth and nail; it’s just not the right place.
“It’s magical here. It gets so dark you can’t see your car when you go out at night and all you can hear is the rustle of bat wings. You can’t sacrifice that.
“We’re very ‘green’, we’ve got solar panels and ground-source heating planned; we eat organic food; my mother is a member of Greenpeace and I’m proud to stand up and say I’m a complete Nimby.”
Reg is in complete agreement. “The council can meet its renewable targets in other ways without blighting so many people and destroying so much. The developers haven’t done their homework; the landscape hasn’t got the capacity to support wind turbines – and it’s just not the right landscape to put them in. It’s detrimental to the people who live here and to the people who visit.”
A recent report on windfarms and their impact on the locality has been broadly welcomed by the local Moorsyde Action Group, but it has its reservations. The Arup study of windfarm development in north Northumberland, commissioned by the North-East Assembly, has found the area can accommodate up to 15 turbines – fewer than half the number currently being proposed.
Applications to build 10 turbines at Moorsyde, 10 at Wandylaw, nine at Barmoor and seven at Toft Hill have been submitted to Berwick Borough Council but have yet to be determined. A decision on Moorsyde is expected in September.
Reg concludes: “We’ve got barn owls and merlins here. Planning permission requires us to put a bat loft in, but they don’t seem fussed about huge turbines 600 metres away.”
By Jane Hall
14 July 2007
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