A wind farm battle in Northumberland is heating up as campaigners on both sides strive to win over public opinion.
As the date approaches for a decision to be made on seven wind turbines at Toft Hill in Berwick, opponents of the scheme have again accused developer Npower Renewables of paying activists to travel to support the scheme.
Last night members of Moorsyde Action Group, who are opposing three wind farm applications, said activists from Alliance for Wind were handing out pre-written letters of support to local people and encouraging them to sign a petition in favour of the turbines. Wind farm campaigner Don Brownlow said two men handing out leaflets in Berwick town centre had admitted to him and other campaigners they were paid by the energy company and had been asked to travel from the South.
Mr Brownlow said: “We strongly object to this. it is plainly wrong to ship in people who do not know the area, do not live or work here, and have them try to influence pubic opinion.”
A spokesman for Npower said: “We took the decision to work in partnership with Alliance for Wind to support Toft Hill as they are a group passionate in their support of wind power, who give people the opportunity to support wind developments by providing accurate and factual information.
“With Npower Renewables’ knowledge, Alliance for Wind spent two days in Berwick, where they presented the environmental impact assessment for Toft Hill along with photomontages and site location maps.”
Applications for wind turbines at Toft Hill, Moorsyde and Barnmoor could all be decided next month, as Berwick Borough Council considers at the end of this month taking the three proposals together.
And while the wind farm battle edges towards conclusion in the north of the county, another is just beginning in the west. Wind Prospect is preparing an application for four turbines at Boundary Lane, Shotley Low Quarter in Tynedale, just across the county border from Consett, County Durham.
The developer held an open day this week to test public support. But the 100m turbines have already caused concern among local people and campaigners.
Philip Brereton, a teacher from nearby Low Westwood, was one of those attending the Wind Prospect exhibition.
He said there was already some local opposition. “For me, I think this would be wrong. We have finally seen a return of breeding red kites to the area.
“We face a situation where, after seeing this part of the Derwent Valley begin to shake off the effects of the steel and coke industry, we have to watch as it is once again industrialised.”
Wind Prospect was last night unavailable for comment.
By Adrian Pearson
4 February 2008
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