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Planners told: Save hills from turbines

The region’s top planners have warned wind farms could “significantly change the landscape” of Northumberland – as Berwick Council prepares to approve 10 125m turbines.

Councils have been told by the North-East Assembly that the “gentle hills of Northumberland” simply cannot accommodate the number of turbines originally planned for the region.

Plans to build 10 turbines at Moorsyde were yesterday scaled back to seven as developer Your Energy bowed to growing demands for planners to consider the overall impact of any application.

But protesters had some bad news last night as it emerged Berwick Council is preparing to approve a 10-turbine site at Wandylaw, within sight of 18 proposed windmills, due to be decided at a public inquiry. Middlemoor campaigner Dominic Coupe said: “The Middlemoor application is going before the planning inspectors next month and at 18 turbines it is already England’s biggest proposed site. But if they grant planning permission for Wandylaw, the bottom of that site will touch upon the top of the other.

“They are that close and yet these planning officers at Berwick are recommending the council goes ahead with this, even though we have not yet had a decision on the enormous application at Middlemoor.”

A report by the assembly advised councils to be wary of the cumulative impact of wind farms, and has called for a regional view to be taken.

Its study on proposals in Berwick area concluded that the landscape could not cope with original plans for more than 25 wind farms.

The report advised limiting development in the Berwick area to 10 to 15 wind turbines and no more than six at one site. Yet despite this, officers at Berwick Council have advised councillors to grant planning permission for up to 10 turbines at Wandylaw.

The NEA has written to the council to say the development “would create a new and dominant feature within the landscape which is likely to have a significant visual impact in some places by virtue of the scale and number of turbines.

“The magnitude and extent of this impact would be increased when viewed in conjunction with planned wind farm development at Middlemoor.”

The Middlemoor application is currently before the Government for consideration, with a public inquiry due to start on November 12.

A final decision on the wind farm is expected early next year. The NEA stopped short of recommending that the Wandylaw application be rejected.

Its planning manager Phil Jones said: “We set out to provide a regionwide view of the situation and provide some guidance on what is clearly a very important issue.

“Our study looking at the wider Berwick area found that it could not accommodate 25 or more wind farms. That’s across Berwick, not just on any one site.

“It is up to individual councils as the planning authority to decide what they do with this information.

“We would certainly welcome any council taking this report into account when making wind farm decisions because it provides a regional view that obviously many councils do not consider.”

The NEA will be discussing the report at 7pm on Monday, October 22, at Berwick Rugby Club, in Scremerston village.

The Wandylaw wind farm is expected to be approved at a public meeting starting at 6pm on October 23 at Berwick Community High School, Tweedmouth.

By Adrian Pearson

The Journal

17 October 2007