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'Gagged' councillor breaks his silence

One of Northumberland’s longest-serving councillors has given his evidence to the Middlemoor inquiry, after years of being ‘gagged’ by local government rules.

Political heavyweight John Taylor, who is county member for Longhoughton division and district representative for the Hedgeley ward of Alnwick District Council, was finally able to break his silence on Friday afternoon on the plans for 18 turbines near South Charlton.

He said: “Because of the councillors’ Code of Conduct, I have been effectively banned from making any representation at the North East Assembly or the county council on the Middlemoor proposals.

“This is the first time that I have been able to comment from a personal point of view on the matter.

“I have lived and worked in Northumberland for most of my life and I feel very strongly that these proposals will have the most detrimental effect on the landscape.

“You will hear very eloquent statements from experts on planning policies, landscape, effect on the environment, and many others.

“I am speaking on behalf of the people who elect me to represent them and have told me recently what their feelings are.

“There will be no local jobs created by these proposals after the construction phase.

“The financial benefits will be reaped far away from this district, and the people who have lived here, are living here and need to live here in the future, will be left with the residue and the probable clean-up process when it is proven that this method of renewable energy is in the wrong place.”

And he added: “The blandishments being offered in terms of community benefit are regarded with a degree of cynicism among the public as the feeling is that these will not benefit the local populations in any form.

“It is almost patronising, in the extreme, to suggest otherwise.

“There is also real public resentment at large, industrial developments such as these being forced on the countryside by the Government and its agencies after the guise of so-called public consultation.

“This is not nimbyism rearing its head; it is ordinary pe
ople – farmers, villagers, householders and all who take such good care and preserve and maintain the countryside in which they live and share with all who use it.

“This is anti-democracy at its worst.”

Meanwhile earlier on Friday afternoon, South Charlton farmer Robert Thorp flagged up what he said was a glaring oversight in npower’s environmental statement.

“The ES refers to the “few tourists” who sail round the Farnes,” said Mr Thorp, who is a member of the National Trust’s management committee for the islands.

“In fact, the figures show that in excess of 40,000 people do so each year, together with 40,000 who actually land on the islands themselves.”

By Robert Brooks

Northumberland Gazette

29 November 2007