A wind farm protest group has accused Your Energy of failing to properly assess the visual impacts of its proposed Moorsyde scheme.
Moorsyde Action Group (MAG) says the photomontages to illustrate the seven 360 feet high turbines planned between Ancroft North Moor and Duddo are inadequate and misleading.
“We have been forced to produce artist’s impressions of the turbines from nearby settlements such as Ancroft South Moor because Your Energy Ltd (YEL) have failed to provide them,” said a MAG spokesman.
A revised application for seven turbines was submitted in September and it is expected that the planning meeting to decide Moorsyde, along with the Barmoor and Toft Hill wind farm applications will take place on March 27.
MAG claims that Northumberland County Council had asked the applicant to provide photomontages that would show the impacts on the B6354, Berwick to Etal road, that passes through the site.
The county archaeologist is also understood to have asked that impacts on nearby Duddo Church and Duddo Tower should be taken into account.
MAG say that Your Energy have failed to provide any photomontages that illustrate the visual impacts on these sites even though the company’s own environmental statement admits that the landscape within 3km would be ‘substantially’ altered and that turbines would be ‘visually dominant’ within that distance, resulting in impacts of ‘major significance’.
“That is bad enough but they have also managed to break all the guidelines with the images that they have produced,” added the MAG spokesman.
“The protection of ‘key views to the Cheviots’ features in everything from the Local Plan to the Regional Renewables Strategy. But YEL have produced only one photomontage that should illustrate the impact on a key view (from the Plough at West Allerdean).
“It is of such poor quality that it ‘loses’ the Cheviots in haze and manages to repeat the trick with white turbine blades that disappear against a white sky.
“Many of Your Energy’s photomontages are under half the required size and of such poor quality that numbers of turbines are just not visible,” MAG’s spokesman added.
“We had a ‘spot the turbine competition’ at an exhibition where YEL’s photomontages were on show, we offered £5 to everybody who could find the turbines listed in any one of three different photomontages.
“We even provided magnifying glasses and reading lamps. Not a single fiver was claimed, but we had plenty of comments about ‘vanishing Cheviots’ and ‘invisible turbines’!
“This is a classic example of ‘the emperor’s new clothes’. An approval of this scheme would have major social and economic effects on the area for at least 25 years, but planning officers and members of the planning committee are being asked to make decisions without proper evidence.”
However, Your Energy insist their photomontages meet the necessary guidelines and they have already revised their scheme to reduce visual impact.
A spokesman said: “We have produced 24 photomontages, including views from Grindon, Shoresdean, Etal, Duddo Stones Circle, Ancroft, Allerdean and Grievestead, to name but a few.
“All viewpoints were agreed with the borough council at the outset, and additional photomontages have been provided as and where requested. Impacts on the historic environment have been addressed to the satisfaction of the county archaeologist.
“We use a specialist firm to produce our montages, which are consistently produced to a high standard and within the concurrent guidance. Comparing ‘as built’ photographs with the ‘photomontages’ for Burton Wold show them to be accurate.
“The visual impact of the project has been absolutely minimised by following the recommendation of the council’s consultants and reducing the number of turbines and their impact upon key viewpoints such as Duddo Stones.
“The site has been identified as a least impact area for wind farm development – yet we have still been very accommodating to ensure that our scheme produces the maximum benefits whilst minimising local environmental impacts.
“You cannot hide a turbine – but they have a very specific and important function – to generate clean renewable energy for thousands of homes.”
By Ian Smith
12 March 2008
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