Wind farm developers are to lodge an appeal against Berwick Borough Council’s refusal of its 10 turbine scheme near Ellingham.
RidgeWind’s proposal for Wandylaw was turned down by councillors last month even though planning officers had recommended approval.
Nigel Goodhew of RidgeWind said: “Clearly, we were disappointed at the council’s decision to refuse planning consent, particularly after a positive recommendation from the planning officers following a lengthy and detailed review of Wandylaw and other proposed projects and substantial local support.
“We have reviewed the decision with our solicitors, and we are confident that we will prevail on appeal. It is unfortunate both we and the council must now go through a costly and lengthy legal exercise.”
He said the appeal would cost his company and the council up to £125,000 each, and the council could be saddled with all the costs if planning inspectors rule in RidgeWind’s favour.
RidgeWind claim their application was blown off course by misleading presentations from minority anti-wind farm protesters in an emotional meeting at Berwick High School which gave little opportunity for supporters of the project to put their views across.
There was also a late reversal by the Ministry of Defence who objected to Wandylaw just before the hearing, despite having issued three letters of no objection in the prior 18 months.
“During the appeal process, we will continue to work hard to counter misleading information about wind farms we have seen recently which only deflect reasoned discussion away from the genuine merits of the project,” said Mr Goodhew.
“There was a thorough and robust public consultation process and two independent landscape reviews during the Wandylaw application. That process and those studies refuted the claims made by the small group of objectors and the unsubstantiated reasons for rejection.”
Councillors ruled that the wind farm would have a detrimental effect on the landscape of north Northumberland, expressing fears over the cumulative impact of the Wandylaw and Middlemoor bids.
They also shared concerns expressed by the Ministry of Defence about the safety of low-flying aircraft – even though planning officials had said the turbines would not affect radar reception.
Shona Alexander, the council’s director of regeneration, has also defended the amount of time given to wind farm supporters at the meeting.
She said “At the meeting, which lasted four hours, both the supporters and the protesters were given the same amount of time (10 minutes) to raise issues about their different views. This is in line with our public speaking policy.
“Ward and parish councillors are also able to speak for 10 minutes and in principle they can either remain neutral, or speak for or against an application; on this occasion one ward councillor spoke against the application.
“The applicant was also given a further 10 minutes to make a presentation in favour of the wind farm, which meant that 50% of the public speaking time was used to support the application.”
Mrs Alexander added: “The council has received notification that Ridgewind Ltd are to appeal the decision made by the planning committee. They will have to formally appeal to the Planning Inspector who will decide if there is a case to answer. This, however, will be a lengthy process.”
RidgeWind has also contacted local and national authorities to encou
rage them to ensure that the cumulative impact of Wandylaw and the proposed wind farm at Middlemoor is addressed during the on-going Middlemoor inquiry.
Wind farm protesters believe RidgeWind’s decision could also prove to be premature given the strength of evidence given by the Ministry of Defence to the Middlemoor inquiry.
Dominic Coupe, chairman of CPRE Northumberland, said: “Their decision to appeal is not a surprising announcement. However, it would seem to us having listened to the evidence provided at the inquiry that the decision might prove to be a hasty one given that the MoD, in the shape of the RAF, have now confirmed that wind farms in the line of sight of radar that are closer than 15km to the radar head -in this case at RAF Brizlee Wood – would have a significant detrimental effect on the ability of the RAF to provide national security.”
22 November 2007
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