A drugs company is challenging a council decision that it cannot erect two huge wind turbines to cut energy bills at its factory in Northumberland.
Merck Sharp and Dohme, which employs 400 people at Cramlington, wants the 130m windmills to generate its own renewable power, halve electricity costs and help safeguard jobs
Neighbouring pharmaceutical company Aesica also wanted permission for two 110m turbines at its 165-job Cramlington plant for the same reasons.
Both applications were rejected by Blyth Valley Council more than a year ago, after objections from Newcastle Airport, which said the turbines could interfere with its air traffic control radar and threaten aircraft safety.
Now MSD has appealed against the council’s decision and a local inquiry will be held in July, when the aviation safety fears will be examined by a Government-appointed planning inspector. Aesica also lodged an appeal but later withdrew it and is now awaiting the outcome of the MSD appeal before deciding whether to try again.
Aesica first applied in 2006 for permission to erect the turbines in an effort to reduce its £407,000 annual energy bill by 40% and help safeguard the jobs of its workers. It was later joined by MSD, which develops and markets lifesaving medicines at its Cramlington plant and says the two turbines could meet 50% of its electricity needs.
In February last year, Blyth Valley councillors rejected both applications, saying the two companies had been unable to overcome the safety fears raised by the airport. Yesterday, head of planning and corporate affairs at Newcastle International Airport Graeme Mason said: “We are still in dialogue with MSD in the hope that we can find a resolution, because we are aware that there are a number of factories in the region considering wind turbines to reduce their energy costs.
“However, as statutory consultees, the only factors we can take into account are the impact of turbines on the radars, airport operations and safety. That is why we are opposing the Cramlington application.”
Aesica Pharmaceuticals’ Cramlington site director Steve Barker said: “We did appeal the council’s decision, but then withdrew it.
“We are now waiting to see what happens with MSD next door and will then review the situation. We are still keen to erect the two turbines to reduce our energy costs.”
A spokeswoman for MSD confirmed that a local hearing into its appeal against the council’s decision is scheduled for July 15.
By Dave Black
25 April 2008
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