Planners are set to confirm their decision to approve seven massive wind turbines on the Northumberland coastline – despite continuing fears that the structures pose a potential risk to aircraft safety.
Wansbeck Council has taken expert legal advice which has concluded that it does not need to reconsider the application to erect the giant turbines along Blyth Harbour.
Site owner Hainsford Energy wants to replace the existing harbour wind farm with new and more powerful turbines, six of which would be 125m high and the seventh the biggest land-based turbine in Europe at 163m.
Four months ago Wansbeck councillors agreed in principle to approve the scheme, despite a formal objection from Newcastle Airport which claims the turbines will cause interference on air traffic control radar screens and pose a potential threat to flight safety.
The airport also claims it might have to create an exclusion zone around the wind farm and reroute incoming and outbound flights by at least five nautical miles.
Following January’s decision the council was forced to consult the Civil Aviation Authority, which has subsequently supported fears that the height of the turbines would have an impact on operations at the airport.
Now council officials have taken legal advice and next month will recommend the planning committee confirm its backing for the turbines, saying there are no grounds for changing the original decision.
It will then be up to the Government Office for the North-East to decide whether to confirm planning approval or agree to the airport’s request for the application to be called in by the Secretary of State and a public inquiry held to examine the air safety concerns.
Graeme Mason of Newcastle Airport said he was disappointed council officers were recommending that the application should not be reconsidered.
He said: “Our request that the Secretary of State should call in this application and hold a public inquiry still stands and will be re-stated.”
August 2007: Hainsford applies to Wansbeck Council to re-power the Blyth Harbour wind farm by building seven much bigger and more powerful turbines along the East Pier and at Battleship Wharf.
January 2008: Councillors agree in principle to grant planning permission despite an objection by Newcastle Airport on flight safety and operational grounds.
January 2008: Airport officials ask the Government Office North East (GONE) to intervene, call in the application and hold a public inquiry into safety concerns.
March 2008: GONE reveals that the council failed to follow the correct procedures by not consulting the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) when it was minded to grant planning permission for the turbines.
April 2008: CAA supports Newcastle Airport’s fears that the turbines will have an impact on operations at the air- port, and suggests lowering the height of the structures.
by Dave Black, The Journal
28 May 2008
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