The Northumberland countryside loses 10 square miles a year to the sights and sounds of wind farms and urban sprawl.
Rural campaigners last night called the problem a “wake up call to the Government” as roads, homes and wind farms increasingly blight scenic locations across the North-East.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) looked at growth into the countryside since the early 1960s to create a map of visual and noise intrusion.
Since the 1990s alone the region’s countryside has lost an area three times the size of Newcastle to the effects of urban developments.
In the rural community 140 square miles of countryside have suffered from the impact of noise from increased traffic, wind farms and aircraft.
And scenic views are increasingly under threat from housing projects.
CPRE regional policy officer Nic Best said the countryside would be at risk if people continued to take it for granted.
“I think in the North-East generally we tend to be quite complacent about the natural beauty we have and the risk to it.
“Other rural areas do tend to take the threat more seriously, for different reasons. I notice that One NorthEast, through its tourism side, has started the Peace and Tranquillity week.
“It is great to see them acknowledging the region’s selling points and recognising what we have in our countryside.
“But now we need to protect that asset to make sure we still have it for many years to come.
“Yes, we need to have development but let’s be sensible and ensure it is not intrusive.”
Dominic Coupe, who has campaigned against wind farms in Northumberland, said the spread of the turbines was destroying the countryside’s unique selling point.
“There is no question whatsoever that structures that are 125 metres tall, larger than any building between Edinburgh and London, are spoiling the gentle rolling beauty of Northumberland or County Durham.
“When you put these all together they add up to have a huge impact.
“We would not ask for cities to be build on the green belt, and there is a similar argument for wind farms.
“If I was to suggest that Newcastle and Sunderland should merge there would be widespread fury. Because while the green space between the two may be small, it is still very important countryside.
“And that green space should not be built on.
“To put up wind turbines throughout green spaces in Northumberland and County Durham has the same impact as building there.
“And there is no difference in principle between the little bit between Newcastle and Sunderland and the National Park. People say it is a large area, but the attraction is you can go there to get lost.
“We want our green space quiet and tranquil.
“We want to be able to see uninterrupted views and hear nothing and that is spoilt if we develop these wind turbines.”
Mr Best added that the spread of wind farms across Northumberland was already having a noticeable effect on the rural environment.
“The maps we produced showing countryside disturbance clearly show the impact of these wind turbines.”
The CPRE wants the Government to strengthen its rural policy.
They have raised concerns that Government proposals in a planning White Paper may make it easier for large developments to be built in rural locations.
By Adrian Pearson
10 September 2007
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