November 13, 2007

Inquiry Day 1 — Morning

Opening salvos have been fired on the first day of a major public inquiry into the 18-turbine wind farm plan for Middlemoor, near Alnwick.

Advocates for energy company npower renewables and Alnwick District Council made their first statements in what looks set to be an epic 12-day battle over the controversial proposals.

The scheme, which if approved by the Secretary of State could operate for the next 25 years, would take 12 months to build and supply enough power for nearly 28,000 homes.

The inquiry is being headed by planning inspector Alan Novitzky, and will hear evidence not only from the applicant and authority, but also a swathe of objectors and a handful of supporters.

And there will also be submissions from the likes of the Alnwick Garden, National Trust, Chillingham Wild Cattle Association and, perhaps most importantly, the Ministry of Defence, which has concerns about the possible effects of the turbines on its radar systems.

Marcus Trinick, on behalf of npower, was first to address the hearing, and in his opening statement dismissed some of the objections being raised to the proposals.

“Clearly this is not an appropriate forum to criticise Government energy policy,” he said. “Indeed, you are charged within the application of that energy, subject to considering all material factors.

“Therefore, evidence which – however fancily dressed – is no more than a diatribe against wind energy, wherever proposed, can attract no weight, and when given orally, is a waste of inquiry time.”

And he added: “Both the draft supplement on Climate Change (CD21) and the DTI Energy White Paper 2007 (CD49) make it clear that promoters of renewable energy projects should not be required to justify the locations chosen by them.

“Examination of their projects should not seek a demonstration that any given site is the best in any given area of search, or that it is the only suitable site.”

But Paul Tucker, advocate for Alnwick District Council, said: “It is doubtful that anyone at this inquiry will seek to argue that climate change is real and that it is in the national interest to move away from an energy economy which is dominated by fossil fuel generation.

“The case for Alnwick District Council is a very simple one – the location which is being promoted in this case, on balance, is an inappropriate one to accommodate the scale of development which is being proposed.

“Large parts of the applicant’s case would have general application wherever a wind farm was being promoted. The point is not to challenge that there is a need, but rather that any need does not warrant the 18 enormous structures promoted at Middlemoor.”

Mr Tucker added: “In short, this is a proposal which will bring some benefits in terms of renewable energy, but will result in unacceptable harm to the landscape.

“We would accordingly invite you to robustly recommend the rejection of this proposal.”

The morning session concluded at 11.30am, due to technical difficulties with microphones and the public address system.

Northumberland Gazette

13 November 2007

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