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Turbine objectors hoping for winds of change  

Wind farm objectors are calling on councillors to reject three Northumberland turbine applications during a D-day meeting tomorrow.

Berwick Borough Council’s planning committee will tomorrow determine applications for turbines at Toft Hill, Moorsyde and Barmoor, with the former listed for refusal and the latter two for approval.

The council’s use of hired planning consultants to help form recommendations to members who are deciding the fate of three wind farm bids came under fire last night.

Those recommendations have been arrived at by consultants based outside the borough, including Darlington-based solicitor Blackett Hart and Pratt, hired by the council due to its lack of staff qualified to handle such complex applications.

Last night a spokeswoman for the council said the report to its planning committee had been written by one of its own officers, who had simply used some material from outside agencies to prepare it.

But the involvement of outside planners was heavily criticised by action groups opposing the two projects which are recommended for approval.

They believe external consultants cannot fully appreciate the effect of turbines on the county in terms of tourism and landscape. Andrew Joicey, of the Save Our Unspoilt Landscape group, which is opposing Force 9’s six turbine Barmoor scheme, said: “Reading the officer’s report, which is done by a hired-in consultant from Darlington, it would appear from his report that he has not appreciated anything like the nature of the environment in which these proposals are being put forward.

“He has almost suggested that there is no tourism of any consequence in the area.

“He seems to have suggested that there are less landscape issues than perhaps there are.

“Altogether, we are very disappointed with the content of the officer’s report.

“And one would have hoped that a local person would have appreciated the value of the countryside and have given a little bit more of an inkling about the quality of it and the way these structures might just impact on it.

“The councillors themselves are local and hopefully they have read the thousands of pages of correspondence but they rely heavily on the officer’s report.”

A spokesman for the Moorsyde Action Group, opposing Your Energy’s plans for seven turbines, said: “In the case of the Moorsyde application, the use of an external consultant as acting case officer has been a source of great concern, particularly during a period of significant instability due to a lack of qualified senior staff in Berwick’s planning department.

“This has led to a failure to properly brief, supervise or review the consultant’s work.

“Within a period of 12 months, he has been nominally supervised by no fewer than five different people, two of whom were not even employees of the borough themselves.

“This, coupled with the particular consultant’s clear lack of knowledge and experience of applications of this scale and complexity, has, in our view, resulted in a failure to provide members with full and impartial advice.”

The Berwick council spokeswoman said: “The recommendations themselves contained within the report have been written by a qualified planner employed by the council.”

A borough councillor, who asked not to be named given the ban on candidates at May’s Northumberland council elections speaking in public ahead of the poll, last night claimed the authority uses external consultants due to the complex nature of both the applications, and determining the area’s capacity for wind power.

By Brian Daniel
The Journal

26 March 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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