Opponents of a proposal to build a wind farm on a Northumberland moor yesterday handed a bill for about £60,000 to the applicant, after deeming a public inquiry a waste of time.
Save Northumberland’s Environment (Sane) said npower renewables should not have pursued its application to erect 18 125m turbines at Middlemoor, near South Charlton in Alnwick district, all the way to the hearing.
The group said npower had known about the Ministry of Defence’s opposition to its plan on aviation grounds for several years, which members say made a costly public inquiry pointless.
Sane had invested in the region of £60,000 opposing the proposals at the hearing on the grounds that the turbines would irreparably harm scenic countryside.
But it argued it would not have invested money in pursuing its case had it known in advance of the ministry’s overwhelming stance.
Last night, Sane’s chairman Nick Blezard, who lives at Heckley House, near Alnwick, said: “I am confident that Tina [Douglas, Sane barrister] made a very strong case and emphasised that we were 100% serious about it. She would not have made the application otherwise.
“The MoD case has been known and tried to be ignored by npower. Had they taken proper note of it, they should not have proceeded to appeal. From what I have gathered their [the MoD] objection has been known about for four years.”
Sane’s plea for costs follows the MoD’s submission that the wind farm at Middlemoor would have a hugely detrimental impact on its air defence radar at RAF Boulmer’s Brizlee Wood, near Alnwick, putting national security at risk.
The application to the inquiry is to cover the money its private membership spent on a barrister and several planning consultants to make its case.
Sane’s bid would be considered only if npower were refused permission for the wind farm.
The application came at what should have been the conclusion of the inquiry, which government planning inspector Alan Novitzky began three weeks ago after Alnwick District Council’s decision to oppose npower’s application last February.
However, Mr Novitzky told the hearing at the district council’s chamber in Alnwick that the inquiry would “reluctantly” be formally wound up by letter as late as next Tuesday after npower’s barrister Marcus Trinick was given a chance to respond in writing to Sane’s application.
Sane will then be given the opportunity to make submissions on his points before the hearing is formally concluded.
Mr Trinick had declined to respond in person, saying he had not been made aware of the application until just before noon.
He said: “It is regrettable that I was not told earlier that this application was to be made.” The inspector told all parties that his verdict on the application would be given to the Secretary of State by the end of next March.
Mr Novitzky had earlier heard closing submissions from proposal supporter John Urquhart, Sane and npower. This followed the district council’s final statement on Thursday.
By Brian Daniel
4 December 2007
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