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Wind Farm Inquiry Day 12

Failure to embrace wind power could leave Northumberland at risk of widespread open-cast mining, the Middlemoor public inquiry has heard on its final day.

As the 12-day hearing concluded with closing speeches on Monday afternoon, John Urquhart of eco-movement Nortopia warned of the consequences if npower’s bid for 18 turbines near Alnwick was turned down.

“What happens here in Alnwick may well resonate in other parts of the world,” he said. “Unfortunately, it may be that this resonance is negative.

“It may well be that we are about to see a greater tragedy unfold. If Northumberland turns down wind farms it will become more vulnerable to open-cast mining.

“If that coal is exploited, we will be faced with Northumbrian coal being burned in British power stations with local benefits and no carbon capture.”

And he added: “What kind of moral message is Northumberland sending to the rest of the world if that happens?”

Mr Urquhart was followed by SANE and CPRE advocate Tina Douglass, who said: “Wind turbines, by their scale and movement, are the most visually intrusive of all developments.

“The applicant has chosen a site visible from a wide range of the most sensitive and valued locations in Northumberland, and has elected to apply for a number and scale of turbines which are inappropriate for this landscape.”

On the matter of MoD objections over the impact on radar at RAF Brizlee Wood, she added: “Unless the laws of physics are overturned, this development cannot go ahead and permit Brizlee Wood air defence radar to function.

“Such immutable laws are not overturned.

“An alternative potential solution will not be forthcoming. The MoD will not be going to the expense of acquiring sites, installing radar and testing it, to oblige the developer.”

But Marcus Trinick, for npower renewables, said the military concerns could be overcome through a planning condition, that no turbines are built until the radar issue is addressed.

“It is clear that almost all wind energy schemes within the planning syste
m in Northumberland are affected by aviation objections, particularly the MoD.

“It is vital, in order to enable targets to be achieved, to allow developments subject to aviation objections to proceed where they are otherwise acceptable, and where the imposition of the sort of condition proposed in this case will enable solutions to be worked out.”

Mr Trinick added that the landscape and visual effects of the proposed wind farm “would be acceptable”.

In concluding, he said: “The conclusions on policy are reinforced by the continuous stream of clear messages coming from ministers advising on the threat posed to us all by the adverse impacts of climate change and the vital role of renewables, as part of a wider range of measures, designed to combat the adverse effects of climate change.”

The Inspector is due to present his recommendations to the Secretary of State by March 2008.

Northumberland Gazette

3 December 2007