Three wind farm proposals within close proximity of each other have been rejected by Berwick Borough Council.
There were jubilant scenes inside a packed Maltings theatre as councillors reached their decision after a marathon six hour planning meeting.
Planning officers had been recommending approval of a seven turbine scheme at Moorsyde, near Ancroft, and a six turbine scheme at Barmoor, near Lowick.
However, members voted 8-1 in support of an amendment tabled by Coun Dougie Watkin to refuse the applications on the grounds that their visual impact outweighed any environmental benefit.
Mike Maud, chairman of the Moorsyde Action Group, said: “We’re absolutely delighted with the decision and would like to congratulate councillors for listening to our arguments and having the guts to vote the way they did.
“We were very concerned at the way the officers presented the case and when the dust settles we have to look at why they took the stance they did.
“We realise, of course, that this could only be stage one but we remain confident that planning inspectors will not tolerate poor quality applications.”
Peter Warlock, chairman of Save Our Unspoilt Landscape (SOUL), said: “We are very pleased that the council had the strength and courage to go against their officers’ recommendation.”
A third proposal for seven turbines at Toft Hill, near Duddo, was also rejected by an 8-0 margin in line with the recommendation of planning officers.
Larry Telford, chairman of ISORES (Inappropriate Siting of Renewable Energy Structures), said: “We suspect this is the first step in a longer process but we’re thrilled to bits that councillors made their decision on the landscape value of the area.”
It is unlikely this will be the end of the matter, however, as all three applicants have indicated they will appeal against the decisions.
Your Energy’s managing director Richard Mardon said: “We are naturally disappointed with the decision to refuse the Moorsyde wind farm application, especially given the urgent need to act against climate change and meet the region’s own renewable energy targets.
“This decision flies in the face of Berwick’s professional planners advice and we will of course be appealing.”
Force 9 Energy, the development partner of Catamount which proposed the Barmoor scheme, is confident an inspector will overturn the council’s decision at appeal.
David Butterworth, Force 9 managing director, said: “We are very disappointed with the result but we will appeal and fully expect we will win.
“The planning officer made it clear there were no grounds to refuse this application. I have never seen such a spineless performance by a group of councillors who did not have the courage to support measures against climate change in the face of unsubstantiated comments from a group of people more interested in their own self-interest.”
An npower renewables spokesman said: “Npower renewables is disappointed that the planning application for our Toft Hill Wind Farm proposal has been turned down – especially given that it is arguably the least contentious of the three wind farm proposals, having over 400 letters of support, only 22 letters of objection, and no objection from any statutory body.
“We will review the reasons given for refusal of the application, but it is likely that npower renewables will lodge an appeal.”
Councillors had earlier heard detailed reports on each application from planning officers, along with submissions from protesters, supporters and applicants.
Coun Dougie Watkin said: “I can not
see how any or all of these applications would not become the major feature of the landscape.
“These applications sit between two protected areas, the national park and the coast AONB, and I cannot see how anyone can think those structures are not going to dominate the landscape.”
Planning case officer Rod Hepplewhite had angered many protesters when he said there were no major tourist attractions within the immediate vicinity of the wind farm sites.
But Coun David Wilson, who felt Ford and Etal Estates should be considered a major attraction, added: “The history, archaeology and the unspoilt landscape are major features of our main tourism industry and we in this area live on tourism. It’s our main income and we must be seen to protect that income.”
Coun Forbes Grant said: “It would be disastrous if we had these wind farms associated with this part of north Northumberland.”
By Ian Smith
3 April 2008
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