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Anger grows at wind scheme

Opposition is growing to plans for seven giant turbines on the Northumberland coast.

The wind energy battleground is switching from the rural moorlands to the county’s coastline because of the bid to re-power the Blyth Harbour wind farm with new turbines that are three times the height of the existing structures.

Site owner and operator Hainsford Energy wants to replace the nine ageing, 42.5metre-high turbines with a much bigger and more powerful stand along the harbour’s East Pier and at nearby Battleship Wharf next to the River Blyth.

Six of them would measure 125 metres from base to blade tip with the seventh – described as one of the tallest turbines so far in Britain – towering a massive 163 metres.

Now planning officers in Blyth Valley have recommended borough councillors to object to the application unless a number of concerns over the scheme are resolved before neighbouring Wansbeck Council makes a decision.

They say the seven turbines will have a much greater visual impact on the area than the existing nine, could affect the character of local conservation areas and listed buildings and have the potential to create a noise problem.

It is also feared the structures could harm local regeneration plans, including building new homes and other facilities along the Blyth Estuary.

And yesterday it was revealed that safety officials at Newcastle Airport have also objected to the Hainsford Energy bid, because of the likelihood of the turbines interfering with the air traffic control radar system.

Anti-wind farm campaigners in rural Northumberland also added their voice to the growing opposition, saying the proposed turbines are too big and at risk of spoiling the character of the coastline.

Last month villagers in North Blyth, whose homes would be less than 400 metres from the biggest of the seven turbines, made their protests known at a public display of the proposals.

Some turbine opponents have claimed that coastal and offshore locations are the most suitable for the structures in order to protect the open countryside and moorland.

But last night Dominic Coupe, who chairs the Northumberland branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said he was also opposed to the new Blyth Harbour scheme.

Mr Coupe, who is also part of the action group opposing a major wind farm at Middlemoor north of Alnwick, said: “I don’t see why the people of Blyth should have to put up with enormous great structures like that on their doorsteps any more than people in rural communities like ours.

“These turbines are going to interrupt their views and their enjoyment of the lovely coastline, which we are lucky enough to be able to visit up here. I am not at all surprised that the Blyth Valley planning officers have said what they have.

“Turbines 125 metres tall would be higher than any building between London and Edinburgh, so surely that answers the question about whether they are acceptable or not.”

A spokeswoman for Newcastle Airport said: “We have objected to this proposed development following the completion of a radar impact assessment, which concluded that it would have an impact on the operation of air traffic control.

“There are a number of possible mitigation measures being looked at by the Civil Aviation Authority but none of these have been approved yet. We are open to reconsidering our objection in the light of the CAA findings.”

Yesterday Hainsford Energy director Charles Rose said: “We are in a consultation process over our proposals at present and if people have concerns they have to be addressed. Planning is a democratic process and it is important that people exercise their rights.”

Wansbeck Council’s planning committee is expected to discuss the company’s application next month.

By Dave Black

The Journal

12 September 2007