Councillors yesterday overwhelmingly rejected three proposals for wind farms in Northumberland.
Berwick Borough Council’s planning committee came out against applications for turbines at Barmoor, Moorsyde and Toft Hill at the climax of an all-day meeting at the town’s Maltings Theatre.
The committee voted by eight to one to reject Force 9 Energy and Catamount Energy’s six turbine Barmoor scheme and Your Energy’s seven turbine Moorsyde proposal, although officers had recommended both for approval.
Councillors also voted against npower renewables’ seven-turbine Toft Hill project, in line with officers’ recommendations.
A crowd of about 300 objectors and supporters had turned out and the decisions drew loud applause and cheers.
Councillors felt the turbines would dominate a landscape which features the Cheviot Hills, Holy Island and Duddo Standing Stones in a way which could not be mitigated.
And they shared objectors’ concerns that wind farms should not be erected in an area which houses the famous Flodden battlefield, where England and Scotland clashed in the 16th Century.
Coun David Wilson said: “I think the history, the archeology, the unspoilt landscape are major, major factors in our main tourism industry and we in this area live on tourism. It is our main income and we must be seen to protect that income.”
Coun Forbes Grant said: “It would be very disastrous if we had these wind farms associated with this part of north Northumberland.
“We are classed as the secret kingdom, we have a lot to give to Northumberland in tourism and there is a lot to see for a lot of people that have not yet seen it.”
Speaking after the meeting, objectors expressed their elation at the decisions, but said they expected the applicants to appeal.
Andrew Joicey, of the Anti-Barmoor Save our Unspoilt Landscape group, said: “I am delighted with the result that we have been hoping for, a decisive turn down of the three applications which for many years we have been fighting because we have known they were blatantly inappropriate in the setting for which they were proposed.
“We know the developers will appeal and that will lead to public inquiry which will be the next stage.”
Mike Maud, chairman of the Moorsyde Action Group, said: “I am absolutely delighted, it has been a long hard three and a half years.
“It is probably just stage one, but at least we have got that far.”
Applicants reacted with a mix of anger and disappointment, and confirmed objectors’ fears over appeals.
David Butterworth, managing director of Force 9 Energy, said: “I am very disappointed that the planning committee ignored the professional advice of the planners. I have never seen such a spineless performance by a group of people who are clearly more interested in their own self interest.
“Obviously we will appeal the decision and fully expect to win.”
Robert Warren, of npower renewables, said: “We will go away and consider the views of the committee and decide how we act.
“There is obviously the option of appealing, but it is too early to say whether npower would do that.”
Richard Mardon, managing director of Your Energy, refused to comment.
It was announced at yesterday’s meeting that the Government Office North East will not “call in” the applications and will allow the council decision to stand – though appeals could still come in from the wind power companies.
Round one victory will ring up the bills
APPLAUSE turned to cheers and tears of joy as a couple of hundred Berwickers celebrated a stunning victory for little people over big business.
The town’s all-day open planning committee meeting to decide three contentious wind farm applications cannot be seen as anything other than a victory for David over Goliath.
The Maltings Theatre and Arts Centre was packed from 10 in the morning until after four in the afternoon as a succession of speakers for and against the Moorsyde, Barmoor and Toft Hill applications drew groans or applause from the highly partisan audience.
When the three decisions became apparent in a flurry of near-unanimous votes the explosion of joy from three-quarters of the audience was like the cork coming out of a champagne bottle.
But when the hangovers abate the “antis” of Save Our Unspoilt Landscape and Moorsyde Action Group will realise that what they have won is but the first battle in an already costly war.
All three defeated applicants – Your Energy, Force Nine and npower Renewables – are likely to appeal and the hard-up council’s legal bills will soar into the hundreds of thousands.
It is a bill Berwick can hardly bear alone.
If Whitehall’s demand for ever-greater production of power from renewables is to be fought out in a cash-strapped borough, then it is only fair that Westminster picks up the tab.
What happens now? It’s up to the applicants
THE companies refused permission yesterday have the option to appeal against the council’s decision.
They must formally enter notice of appeal within six months of the decision notice being issued by the local authority, and they must decide whether to ask for an appeal heard by a planning inspector via written representations, an informal hearing or a public inquiry.
Even if the applicants ask for written representations, the inspector may still call a public inquiry.
The inquiry process is potentially a costly one for councils – if their decisions are overturned they can be asked to pay the developers’ costs as well as their own should the inspector find that they acted unreasonably in refusing permission in the first place.
If the applicants lose the appeal, they can mount a high court challenge to the decision, although this would only be entertained if it was proved that the inspector had misinterpreted the law.
Were that successful, the appeal would be reconsidered by the planning inspectorate.
Should the applicants choose not to appeal, they could alternatively submit a revised planning application or shelve their plans entirely.
by Brian Daniel
28 March 2008
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