The Hexham-based company Amec has decided to withdraw four turbines from its planning application for a windfarm at the Ray Estate.
The developer had originally planned to put up 20 turbines in the area, but in light of evidence presented at the current inquiry into three windfarms, it has altered this to 16.
The turbines to be removed are the ones closest to Great Wanney Crag hill fort scheduled ancient monument, which were major source of controversy.
Amec managing director David Hodkinson believes the move could improve the chances of securing planning consent.
Tynedale Council, meanwhile, has already withdrawn its objection on cultural heritage grounds, though it has stressed many concerns still exist over the proposals.
The inquiry is focused on applications by Amec, Steadings and Wind Prospect, who all want to create windfarms within the Knowesgate area.
Amec has taken an unusual stance in that – due to a “U-turn” from the MOD, which now objects to the scheme – it is not being represented by legal counsel.
Last Friday, after the inquiry had looked at landscape and cultural heritage, Amec issued a statement saying it had reconsidered its application.
This was in light of the evidence presented, including that from its own landscape witness, Rebecca Rylott.
“Whilst Amec does not accept the scheme of 20 turbines – currently before this inquiry – would not be appropriate in scale, design and location, it nevertheless recognises – as was acknowledged in its statement of case and opening – that the four turbines closest to Great Wanney Crag are the most controversial and, in some respects, are affected by different considerations from those which apply to the rest of its scheme,” the statement said.
“In those circumstances, and in the interests of limiting and narrowing concerns which have been raised on all the matters of importance to this inquiry, Amec has decided that it will not seek consent for a scheme which includes those four turbines (numbered 17-20).”
Tynedale Council has since said it is “impossible to overstate” the move’s importance, which would have a knock-on effect on how Steadings/Kirkwhelpington and Wind Prospect/Green Rigg are viewed.
It responded in a statement: “In an audacious master-stroke those advising Amec have persuaded their client to withdraw the only part of their scheme which offended any interest of cultural heritage.
“It is no longer possible for Green Rigg or Steadings to point to the need for renewables as the justification for overcoming the legal and policy presumption against their proposals.
“This is because the Ray scheme can meet the need without causing any such harm.
“The Ray scheme is now way out in front in any comparison between the three.
“This leaves Green Rigg and Steadings to argue over the scraps.”
The inquiry, now ending it fifth week, will have a break next week, and resume on March 4. Aviation evidence will be dealt with from that date until March 20.
Amec will now be advertising its amended wind turbine application.
By Robert Gibson
22 February 2008
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