Years of wrangling have now culminated in the public inquiry to consider an 18-turbine wind farm near Alnwick.
It was back in 2003 that the plan first came to light on Middlemoor, North Charlton, which overlooks the Cheviot Hills just off the A1.
The initial scoping put forward by National Wind Power was for around 25 turbines, each over 100m high,
Because the bid would generate over 50 megawatts of energy, the power to decide on the scheme was taken out of Alnwick District Council’s (ADC) hands and given to the Department of Trade and Industry.
The emerging Regional Spatial Strategy, meanwhile, had already earmarked the Middlemoor site – and others in Northumberland – as being suitable for a ‘medium-scaled wind installation’.
But ADC, together with local parish councils and residents, immediately expressed concerns about the size of the proposed plant, saying it would overwhelm a beautiful, naturally sensitive landscape.
National Wind Power then became part of npower renewables, and following consultation, the number of turbines proposed for Middlemoor fell to 18.
ADC continued to express concerns, although Northumberland County Council backed the bid in 2006.
By February this year, the council, as statutory consultee, formally objected to the Middlemoor scheme, on the grounds of its impact on the landscape, and that obliged the DTI to hold a full public inquiry.
That, however, could prove to be a double-edged sword for the small local authority.
Costs for the hearing itself could reach in excess of £100,000, while barristers can charge thousands of pounds per day.
And there is also the substantial amount of officer time spent preparing the council’s case and appearing before the inspector.
The worst case scenario is that if the council loses, it not only gets the wind farm, but also the prospect of paying substantial costs to the developer.
Technical data for Middlemoor
Number of turbines: 18
Maximum output: between 54-75 megawatts.
Supply capacity: Around 27,600 homes – enough to power every home in both Alnwick and Berwick.
Construction time: 12 months
Operational lifespan: 25 years
By Robert Brooks
9 November 2007
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