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Sticking by wind turbine decision

Councillors in Wansbeck are standing by a decision to approve planning permission to construct seven new wind turbines on the north bank of Blyth Harbour.

Earlier this year Wansbeck District Council approved plans for the turbines to be built to replace a line of smaller machines which have been generating wind power at North Blyth since the early 1990s.

The decision was then challenged by Newcastle International Airport, and Government Office North East (GONE) intervened and instructed the Council not to issue planning approval using its Article 14 powers under town and country planning procedures.

The airport objected to the application on the grounds that the proposed windfarm may have an operational effect on the airport in that the turbines – six of which would stand 125 meters tall with the seventh at 163 meters – would appear on their radar system and air traffic controllers may have to direct traffic around the windfarm.

They raised further concerns that directing aircraft away from the wind farm may increase its carbon footprint and noise levels.

At a meeting of Wansbeck Council’s Regulatory Committee, councillors were told that following the intervention by GONE planning officers sought further legal advice as well as independent guidance from world expert consultants on aviation matters.

The Spaven Consulting report reviewed the information by the applicant and drew conclusions on the likely impact of the development on the provision of radar services at Newcastle Airport.

The report concluded that the Blyth Harbourt turbines will appear relatively infrequently on Newcastle Airport’s primary radar.

It said: “It is extremely unlikely that the presence of the Blyth Harbour turbines will lead controllers to judge that IFR traffic to which they are providing a service in the airpsace above must be re-routed.”

Senior planning development control officer Richard Gee told councillors that the consultants and a barrister had concluded that Wansbeck’s decision to be ‘minded to grant planning approval’ to the application was sound and there was no need to change it.

“After taking this further independent technical and legal advice, that while the concerns of the Newcastle International Airport are noted, they have not demonstrated that the proposed development of seven wind turbines at Blyth Harbour will have an adverse and detrimental affect on the operational safety of the airport,” he said.

At a meeting of the regulatory committee councillors agreed to re-confirm their earlier decision which will now once again be reported to GONE, to either lift the Article 14 restriction on granting planning approval, or refer a final decision to the Secretary of State.

By Tegan Chapman

News Post Leader

23 June 2008