A public inquiry to determine whether an 18-turbine wind farm can be built in the north Northumberland countryside got underway on Tuesday.
Alnwick District Council, which is opposing the application by npower renewables to build a wind farm at Middlemoor, near North Charlton, has already launched a strong defence of the decision it originally made in February.
Advocate Paul Tucker, representing the council, said: “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.”
The authority says it does not plan to challenge the need for renewable energy sources but aims to make it clear that the 125m high structures promoted at Middlemoor are unsuitable.
“This proposal would be clearly viewed from many miles of public view points around in a large swathe of one of England’s most picturesque counties,” said Mr Tucker. “From North and particularly South Charlton the proposed development would be a highly intrusive feature in what is presently a low key rural environment.”
The council will also argue that while there is some support for wind energy production in the broad location of the appeal site, it could only accommodate a significantly smaller form of development than is proposed.
However, npower renewables hope to persuade inspector Alan Novitzsky to rule in its favour after the 12-day inquiry in Alnwick’s Northumberland Hall.
Marcus Trinick, advocate for npower renewables, used his opening statement to dismiss 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.”
He will be pressing the council to defend an objection that contradicts its own planning department’s recommendation not to oppose the wind farm, and that of three separate reports into the scope for building wind farms in the area.
“The Broad Areas of Least Constraint (BALCs) – one of which includes the Middlemoor site – have come through a fully informed democratic process and have the blessing of the adopted Local Development Framework Core Strategy as well as the Regional Spatial Strategy,” he explained.
“Criticism of the principle, location or scale of development proposed in the BALCs is not appropriate in considering the merits of specific projects and in my view should attract no weight.”
Mr Trinick noted that 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,” he said.
The 54-75MW 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 will hear evidence not only from the applicant and authority, but also a host of objectors and a handful of supporters.
Perhaps most importantly, these include the Ministry of Defence, which has concerns about the possible effects of the turbines on its radar systems. Its influence was a major contributory factor in Berwick Borough Council rejecting RidgeWind’s proposal to build 10 turbines at neighbouring Wandylaw.
Others making submissions include the National Trust, Chillingham Wild Cattle Association, The Alnwick Garden, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and Save Northumberland’s Environment.
By Ian Smith
14 November 2007
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