A public inquiry to determine plans to build the region’s most powerful wind farm near North Charlton will take place in November.
The hearing is due to start on Tuesday, November 13 at the Northumberland Hall, Alnwick, and is expected to last for 12 days.
A pre-inquiry meeting is to be held at the same venue on Tuesday, September 11 at 2pm.
The inquiry was triggered after Alnwick District Council objected to npower renewables’ proposals for the 18-turbine plant at Middlemoor in February.
Officers had said there were no policy grounds for rejecting the bid but councillors said the strength of opinion against the plans meant that the move was necessary, whatever the cost.
At the time the decision was taken, officers estimated that the inquiry would cost up to £100,000 but there are now fears the bill could be larger based on estimates for other areas.
Campaigners have welcomed news of the date.
Clare Wilson, regional development manager for npower renewables, said: “This is good news for the project, a public inquiry will provide a balanced forum in which to discuss the facts about the wind farm.
“The district council will have to defend an objection that contradicts its own planning department’s recommendation not to oppose the wind farm, as well as the Northumberland County Council’s recommendation that the wind farm is acceptable, and that of three separate reports into the scope for building wind farms in the area.
“Climate scientists predict further extreme weather patterns in the future, so it really is time for Northumberland to start contributing to reducing carbon emissions from energy and wind farms, like Middlemoor, can really make a difference.
“We have seen a number of studies that have all endorsed the use of wind power at North Charlton so it will be interesting to see how the councillors have weighed up the need for new renewable energy projects and the environmental benefits of the proposed wind farm, and balanced that against what they perceive to be the local environmental impacts of the scheme.”
The application would have been determined by the Department of Trade and Industry, not the district council, if it had not gone to a public inquiry.
A spokesman for Save Northumberland’s Environment (SANE), which is against the development, said: “The public inquiry provides the opportunity for the many bodies whose duty it is to preserve and promote the beautiful historic landscape and cultural heritage of Northumberland together with local residents, businesses and parish councils to put a strong and professional case against the Middlemoor power station.
“It is important for objectors to make their views known to the Public Inquiry inspector. SANE feels very strongly that the huge damage that would be done by this enormously insensitive development far outweighs any benefits from locating a power station at Middlemoor.”
A district council spokeswoman said: “The public inquiry will give people who feel strongly about the wind turbine proposal the opportunity to have their say.
The district council is just one of several organisations whose opinion will be heard by the inspector.”
By Jaclyn Curry
16 August 2007
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