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Battle begins over wind farm plans  

A wind farm development would cause “unacceptable harm” to the Northumberland landscape, a council has said at the first day of a public inquiry.

Yesterday saw the opening of the first of a series of wind farm inquiries that will be held across the county, as Alnwick District Council and nPower Renewables locked horns over the proposed development at North Charlton, close to Alnwick.

Protesters and supporters both made their presence felt, holding placards outside Northumberland Hall, in Alnwick, before the inquiry began.

Representing the council, Paul Tucker said: “This is a proposal which will bring some benefits in terms of renewable energy but will result in unacceptable harm to the landscape.

“From north, and particularly south Charlton, the proposed development would be a high, intrusive feature in what is presently a low key environment.”

He added that the wind farm would be visible for many miles around.

He said: “It would be highly visible as a ridgeline development from the east to the vast numbers of drivers and passengers along the main arterial road and rail links between England and Scotland. It would be prominent as an alien feature from other sensitive land to the south and west.

“This proposal would be clearly viewed therefore for many miles of public viewpoints around a large swathe of one of England’s most picturesque counties.”

Mr Tucker was also critical of the graphical representations of the development by nPower, adding there was “a guide to good practice that has not been followed”.

But John Ainslie, head of consents at nPower, defended the application.

He said: “nPower Renewables has conducted a full environmental assessment of the Middlemoor proposal and has undertaken extensive consultation both with relevant professional consultees and with the local community and other interests. The design of the wind farm has evolved in response to these consultations and appropriate professional advice has been taken on environmental matters.”

Mr Ainslie also said that the development would have significant benefits to the local community. “The wind farm would make a substantial contribution towards the regional and sub-regional renewable energy targets against which there is an enormous shortfall.

“It has the potential to provide significant local and regional economic benefits.” These would include work for local people and companies and cash handouts to various community groups by nPower.

But the claim was challenged by Mr Tucker, who said that any employment opportunities would be based “on the whim” of the project manager and there was nothing binding nPower to use local firms and workers.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Inquiry process

THE opening statements at the planning inquiry into the Middlemoor proposal were just the first shots in a battle that is scheduled to last three weeks.

A range of other interested parties are registered to speak at the inquiry before Inspector Alan Novitzky retires to make a decision, with the result due early next year.

Among those who will be addressing the inquiry are representatives from nPower and planning chiefs from the council.

The SANE protest group, set up to oppose the development, a number of individuals and a representative of the parish councils in the area will also have their say. Much also rests on the evidence of the Ministry of Defence, which is due to be heard early next week.

Earlier this year, The Journal reported how the MOD had objected to a number of wind farm proposals because of fears they would interfere with radar systems.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Farcical start to public inquiry

YESTERDAY’S inquiry was carried out in almost farcical conditions as technical problems played havoc with proceedings.

The start of the inquiry was delayed as members of the public at the back of Northumberland Hall could not hear the opening statements due to the poor sound quality.

Following a two-hour adjournment, the inquiry reconvened with the two loudspeakers moved closer to the public seats.

But the people occupying those seats still strained to hear, and at points even the parties represented struggled to understand each others’ questions.

A number of people said it was not the first time such problems has been experienced at the hall, which is a regular venue for inquiries, with the high ceilings contributing to the poor acoustics.

Speaking during the proceedings, Paul Tucker said: “It is something we need to sort out before
this inquiry goes much further.”

Planning inspector Alan Novitzky agreed, adding: “I am aware of the difficulties and we are trying to resolve them.”

By Ben Guy

The Journal

14 November 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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