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Airport set for battle of skies over turbines  

Newcastle Airport bosses are refusing to admit defeat in their battle against plans to build seven massive wind turbines on the Northumberland coastline.

Aircraft safety fears sparked by the height of the giant structures could now be examined by a Government planning inspector at a public inquiry.

The new turbines – six of them 125 metres high and the seventh the tallest land-based turbine in Europe at 163m – were given the green light by Wansbeck councillors on Tuesday, despite a formal objection from the airport.

Airport managers say the re-powered Wansbeck Blyth Harbour Wind Farm could cause interference on air traffic control radar screens and pose a potential threat to aircraft safety.

They claim they might have to create an exclusion zone around the wind farm, because of the height of the turbines, and re-route incoming and outbound flights by at least five nautical miles.

Yesterday airport head of planning and corporate affairs Graeme Mason said he would be asking Ministers to ‘call in’ the application and hold a public inquiry because of the unresolved safety concerns. Site owner Hainsford Energy wants to replace the existing nine turbines at Blyth Harbour with the seven much bigger and more powerful machines to create a facility capable of powering 11,600 homes. Approval was granted by Wansbeck’s regulatory committee on Tuesday night, despite a last-minute plea by Newcastle Airport that it would be ‘quite wrong’ to give the scheme the green light. The new turbines will be built along Blyth’s East Pier and at Battleship Wharf near Cambois.

Yesterday Mr Mason said: “I have already been in contact with Government Office for the North-East to formally request that the application is called in by the Secretary of State. It is looking increasingly likely that we will be arguing this issue at a public inquiry.

“As far as we are concerned, the safety issues associated with this application have not yet been resolved. It is for the applicant to satisfy us that there will not be an unacceptable impact on our operations, and that has not happened yet.”

Hainsford Energy commissioned world leading aviation experts QneticQ to study the potential air safety risks. The firm’s conclusion was that the wind farm would have a minimal impact on the airport’s operations.

Mr Mason said the airport disagreed with that finding, as the turbines had the potential to create ‘clutter’ on radar screens – images similar to aircraft – which had implications for aircraft safety and controller workload at busy times.

“We are considering on-site renewables at the airport and the last thing we would want to do is undermine our green credentials by objecting to wind farm proposals for the sake of it.

“However, we don’t feel the safety concerns have been resolved in this case and believe a public inquiry is needed.”

Hainsford Energy director Charles Rose said: “Our focus all along has been to produce a project which makes a lasting contribution to the development of renewable and sustainable energy in the North-East.”

By Dave Black

The Journal

10 January 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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