National security would be compromised if a wind farm was built on a Northumberland moor, a public inquiry was told yesterday.
Ministry of Defence experts objecting to proposals to erect 18 turbines at Middlemoor, at South Charlton near Alnwick, said the 125 metre high structures would be in the direct line of sight of RAF Boulmer’s Brizlee Wood air defence radar.
The fifth day of the hearing was told that as a result the structures would interfere with the radar’s ability to detect enemy aircraft.
Squadron Leader Chris Breedon, an MoD expert on defence radars, told the inquiry at Alnwick’s Northumberland Hall: “I believe that the proposed wind farm at Middlemoor will have a significant adverse impact on the efficacy of the radar at Brizlee Wood.
“Given the importance of this facility to the air defence of the United Kingdom, I conclude that the proposed wind farm will unacceptably compromise that air defence.”
Planning inspector Alan Novitzky had heard that the RAF uses radars to provide early warning of enemy aircraft attack and to give information to pilots to allow them to engage and intercept threat aircraft.
However studies carried out by the MoD since 2004 show that radar coverage is obscured by aircraft flying above turbines, effectively making planes invisible.
Sqdn Ldr Breedon said: “This could result in a near miss at best or a collision at worst.” The inquiry had been told how the radar at Brizlee Wood is to be upgraded in due course, from a type 93 to T102 capability.
The modern equipment may be able to mitigate the effects of turbines on radars, Sqdn Ldr Breedon said. Upgrades will take place at other RAF bases before they are rolled out at Boulmer.
Should these prove successful in mitigating the effects of wind turbines on radars, the MoD could withdraw its objection to the Middlemoor proposal, the inquiry was told.
Applicants nPower renewables suggested a condition could be imposed if it was granted planning permission, forbidding the turbines being erected until the MoD’s objections had been allayed and tests on the new technology carried out. John Ainslie, company head of consents, said: “At present it is not wholly clear what the status is of the adverse effect on radars, air defence and national security.
“There are substantial mitigation procedures to make sure air traffic control services are not compromised.”
NPower highlighted the number of wind farm applications in the North-East which have encountered objections on aviation grounds, either from the MoD or Newcastle Airport.
Company barrister Marcus Trinick said the MoD should be doing more to fight climate change “Given the critical importance of climate change, and the need to explore renewable sources, the MoD ought to be looking at the possibility of finding solutions with other bodies to climate change.”
The inquiry later heard accusations from npower that the MoD had “ambushed” the hearing after introducing evidence which it had not disclosed in advance.
The inquiry is expected to run until the end of next week, with a decision likely from Mr Novitzky early next year.
By Liz Hands
21 November 2007
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