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Go-ahead for turbine plan

Plans to develop a major new wind farm on the Northumberland coastline – including the biggest turbine built in the UK – look set to be given the green light by councillors.

The project involves putting up seven massive turbines on the north side of the River Blyth to replace the existing Blyth Harbour wind farm, which has been producing renewable energy since 1993.

Six of the turbines would tower 125m from base to blade tip while the seventh, planned for the Battleship Wharf site at Cambois, would measure a total of 163m in height, the country’s biggest to date.

The new turbines would be more than twice the height of Nelson’s Column, dwarf the existing nine 45m-high structures and create major new landmarks on the Northumberland skyline.

Next week a special meeting of Wansbeck Council’s regulatory committee will be recommended to grant planning permission for the scheme to green power company Hainsford Energy, the owner of the Blyth wind farm.

Months of detailed analysis and studies have led planning officers to conclude that the seven turbines are acceptable, despite objections from Newcastle Airport and dozens of people in the riverside hamlet of North Blyth.

Villagers say the turbines are too big and too close to their homes, while airport bosses fear the huge structures will show up on radar screens and threaten air safety.

The turbines, planned along Blyth’s East Pier and further north at Cambois, will be more than three times bigger than the current structures and much more powerful.

The re-powered wind farm will meet about 10% of Northumberland’s target for renewable energy capacity by 2010 and produce enough electricity to power 11,600 homes.

Alongside the £30m New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC), which employs 50 skilled scientists and engineers in Blyth, the project is also seen by many as strengthening the town’s growing reputation as the UK hub for green energy development.

Yesterday Paul Crossland, who chairs the North Blyth residents’ association, said many locals were still opposed to the scheme, adding: “The turbines are far too big and this project is not a re-powering of the existing wind farm, it is a complete and utter change.

“The biggest one, at Battleship Wharf, is being called a landmark turbine, but we already have two of them in the sea off Cambois and they haven’t worked for more than a year. At least one of these seven turbines will be far too close to homes and people are up in arms about it.”

By Dave Black

The Journal

24 December 2007