Efforts to regenerate the economy of a former Northumberland coal mining stronghold will be seriously harmed if a green energy company is allowed to erect massive wind turbines in the area, it was claimed yesterday.
Allowing seven 121 metre-high windmills to be built near the Alcan aluminium plant at Lynemouth is not the type of new investment needed to revitalise an area trying to recover from the demise of generations of mining employment, it was said.
Local villagers who already live with the “hideous backdrop” of the giant smelter will be worse off if the turbines are allowed to take their place on the skyline, according to local councillors.
Opponents of the wind farm proposed by Scottish Power subsidiary CRE Energy were speaking at the opening of a public inquiry into the company’s appeal against Castle Morpeth Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for the seven turbines.
The structures – each 40 metres taller than the existing smelter chimneys – would form part of a 13-turbine wind farm, half of which has been given the green light by neighbouring Wansbeck District Council.
Castle Morpeth councillors refused permission last year, claiming the turbines will have an over-dominant visual impact on the flat coastal plain and undermine efforts to regenerate the area following the closure of Ellington Colliery.
Yesterday local borough councillor Arnold Baker told planning inspector David Cullingford: “When you see the Alcan factory you will recognise that it is a hideous backdrop, and surely it is not in our interests to make that view even worse by adding these windmills. Surely the nine turbines that have already been approved in this area are enough for any community to have to accept. These proposed in Castle Morpeth are a step too far.
“We are trying to make positive changes to people’s lives in this area, which has been blighted by heavy industry for generations.”
Local county councillor Jim Wright said the seven turbines would be industrial “monoliths”, thrust into the backyard of less privileged and disadvantaged communities. He said: “This area has borne the brunt of intrusive and dirty activities for generations for the regional and national good. Post-industrial dereliction is being addressed. However, not many people feel this scheme will generate the area socially or economically.”
CRE Energy, which has already reduced the scale of the scheme from 16 turbines to 13, says there is an urgent need to produce more power from renewable sources to meet national and local targets. It says the site lies in an area officially designated as suitable for wind farm development.
IMPACT OF WINDMILLS ASSESSED
NINE wind turbines have already been given the green light in the Lynemouth area, six near the Alcan smelter on land in Wansbeck district and three at the village’s Bewick Drift former coal stocking area.
CRE Energy argues that because of this, the likely landscape effects of the seven turbines proposed in Castle Morpeth must be re-assessed. It says the ‘evolution’ of the flat coastal landscape has already begun.
Yesterday Planning Inspector David Cullingford, who is due to submit his report and recommendations to the Secretary of State next week, said the impact of the seven windmills on the local landscape remained one of the two key issues at the inquiry.
The other was the potential visual harm caused to people living in the nearby villages of Lynemouth, Ellington and Linton, and users of facilities such as Lynemouth Cemetery and the Queen Elizabeth country park at Woodhorn.
By Dave Black
23 April 2008