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Blueprint for future of wind farms

Royal Air Force objections to a wind farm near Alnwick could effectively shoot down plans for turbines across the whole of Northumberland.

That’s the view of objectors to the proposed npower renewables plant at Middlemoor, next to South Charlton, which is currently the subject of a public planning inquiry.

Top brass from the Ministry of Defence were at the Northumberland Hall, Alnwick, on Tuesday to raise their objections to the scheme, which they say will have a profound effect on air defence radar coverage from RAF Brizlee Wood.

Npower claims that the potential disturbance from the moving blades could be mitigated using emerging computer technology, and say they would even be prepared to wait until that is proven before erecting a single turbine.

But the MoD told inspector Alan Novitzky that no such technology was available yet, and that the sheer proximity of the masts to Brizlee would cause a ‘dead zone’ which radar beams could not penetrate.

And it also emerged that both the military and their civil aviation counterparts have since lodged similar objections to almost every wind farm project in an area stretching from Berwick to Hexham.

They include the proposed Ray Estates and Greenrigg wind farms near Kirkwhelpington, as well as Toft Hill, Moorsyde and the recently-refused Wandylaw in Berwick borough.

All are said to have a similar potential for disruption to either Brizlee, the Spadeadam Electronic Warfare Range or Newcastle Airport.

Representatives from at least five wind farm companies were in the public gallery to hear the MoD case on Tuesday, including Amec, Nuon Renewables and Harworth Power.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England county chairman Dominic Coupe believes the Middlemoor inquiry could prove to be the test case by which all future wind farm applications in the region are measured.

He said: “If the inspector rejects npower’s application on the MoD’s grounds, it would make life for wind farm developers in the North East extremely difficult indeed.

“It was one of the major factors involved in refusing Wandylaw, which is right next door to Middlemoor, but that is now being appealed.

“To be refused following a public inquiry, however, is far more conclusive.”

Local farmer and district councillor Robert Thorp, who is a key objector, added: “I think the MoD is very serious in its concerns about national security.

“The wind farm industry as a whole will have to pay very serious attention to what it has to say.”

Fellow councillor John Taylor, who will be giving evidence against Middlemoor, said: “I have no doubt that this wind farm inquiry will have a substantial impact on current and future turbine applications across Northumberland.”

But a spokesman for Your Energy Ltd, which is behind proposals for the Moorsyde wind farm near Lowick, said each application had be decided on its own merits.

“We work very closely with the MoD, which supports government policy on renewable energy, on all our projects” he said.

By Robert Brooks

Northumberland Gazette

22 November 2007