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Wind farms risk airport growth  

Airport bosses are to demand the Government introduces stricter planning rules which would force wind farm developers to consider radar concerns when applying to build turbines.

Newcastle Airport is in consultation with Government officers in an attempt to end the costly legal battles which could threaten the airport’s expansion.

With more than £400m a year brought into the North East economy through the airport, staff believe the time has come for developers to consider the wider impact of their airspace- restricting turbines.

Aviation groups are currently fighting a legal battle against three energy companies which want to build 59 turbines north of Hexham.

The airport, the Ministry of Defence and air traffic control bosses objected to the proposals, saying the turbines show up on radar, with the resulting safety concerns severely limiting flightpath expansion.

The cumulative impact of these turbines, plus many more not yet officially planned, would prevent flights over large parts of Northumberland.

Head of planning and corporate affairs Graeme Mason said the airport was in talks with Government departments and development agency One NorthEast in an attempt to strengthen regional planning powers.

“In terms of overall flight safety and our capacity, these turbine proposals are raising real concerns and we cannot go on like this. It costs a lot of money to fight these proposals and yet this could be avoided.”

A Government planning guideline, PPS22, states renewable-energy companies should check with airports before submitting plans to local councils.

This in theory should allow developers to see the problems their turbines could create and avoid lengthy planning battles.

But because it is just guidance, developers can still launch a planning proposal even if the airports have concerns.

One option open to the airport is to see turbine consultation enshrined in the Regional Spatial Strategy – the North East’s development blueprint which will form the legal framework behind every major planning decision.

Bill Richmond, of the British Wind Farm Association, said while changes to the RSS would present one solution, there were questions over whether airports should be given what would effectively be a pre-planning decision veto.

“We agree we need to find a way around this, we recognise the problems faced on both sides. I know for most developers in the North East, aviation consultation is one of the biggest issues and it is not something that is rushed through or ignored.

“If the North East, if the UK, is to meet its renewable energy targets then we need to find a way around this.”

One NorthEast chief executive Alan Clarke said: “We recognise the importance of the economic contribution of Newcastle International Airport and the potential benefits of new and renewable energy sources. Whilst we are a statutory planning consultee on some planning applications we are actively working with Government Office, Newcastle Airport, businesses within the wind industry and regional planning authorities to identify a way forward.”

A Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “Public consultation upon our proposed changes to the North East RSS closed on 2nd April, 2008. We aim to publish final RSS in June 2008 and will take account of representations made on wind energy.”

by Adrian Pearson

The Journal

11 April 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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