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Safety watchdog backs objections to turbines

National air safety watchdogs have given their backing to serious concerns raised by Newcastle Airport over plans to erect seven huge wind turbines on the Northumberland coastline.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says it supports arguments put forward by airport bosses that the new windmills proposed at Blyth Harbour will have an impact on operations at the airport.

The CAA, the UK’s national aviation regulator, has also made suggestions about action which could be taken to tackle potential problems, including reducing the height of the turbines.

The CAA made its views known after being belatedly consulted by Wansbeck District Council, which three months ago resolved to approve Hainsford Energy’s application to erect the windmills.

Councillors took the decision despite a formal objection from the airport to the height of the turbines, six of which would be 125m high and the seventh the tallest land-based turbine in Europe at 163m.

Airport officials say the giant structures could cause interference on air traffic control radar screens and pose a potential threat to flight safety. They also claim they might have to create an exclusion zone around the wind farm and re-route incoming and outbound flights by at least five nautical miles.

Wansbeck councillors agreed to approve the wind farm in January, but it later emerged that under national planning rules the council should have first sought the opinion of the CAA because of the airport’s safety objections.

Yesterday a CAA spokesman said: “We have now responded to the council and said we agree with Newcastle Airport in many of its arguments that these turbines will have an impact on operations at the airport.”

Wansbeck Council’s regulatory committee could now be asked to reconsider the application in the light of the CAA’s response.

The Journal

24 April 2008