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Villagers dread idea of giant turbines

Families in a picturesque conservation village fear they are facing the prospect of two wind farms being developed near their peaceful rural community.

People in Longhirst near Morpeth say they are horrified at the possibility of 15 giant turbines – each measuring 130 metres from base to blade tip – going up on nearby farmland.

Green power company Novera Energy wants to erect six turbines on the edge of the village, and will hold public exhibitions today and tomorrow to outline the plans and gauge local reaction.

Novera’s intervention comes 18 months after another renewable energy company, RES UK, was given permission to carry out wind speed tests at Longhirst, despite strong opposition from residents and parish councillors.

Approval for the 80m-high test mast was granted by a planning inspector in December 2006 and was widely seen as paving the way for an application to erect nine turbines on the site.

Now locals fear both Novera and RES UK will submit separate planning applications which could see 15 turbines built between Longhirst and the nearby hamlet of Hebron.

Longhirst Parish Council vice-chairman Peter Coates, a retired local government officer, said: “I believe there is every possibility that we will be faced with applications for two wind farms here, because our understanding is that RES UK intends to come back with proposals in the relatively near future.

“A lot of people will be going to the public exhibitions, but I guess the majority will be absolutely horrified that we are faced with two wind farms and possibly 15 giant turbines.

“Our fear is that this whole conservation village will be completely overshadowed by these massive machines. We came to Longhirst for peace and quiet and this prospect is quite horrendous.”

Another villager, Gill Featonby, said: “We can’t really comment on this latest scheme for six turbines until we go to the exhibition, but I am personally concerned about the proximity of the turbines to bridleways and footpaths.”

Castle Morpeth Green Party councillor Nic Best, who is also a regional official with the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said there were genuine concerns about turbines going up around Longhirst, as the area was not designated for wind energy development in policy documents.

Novera Energy, which currently operates just one wind farm in the UK but has several others in the construction or planning process, says the Longhirst site is an exposed location with good wind speeds and grid connections.

No one from the company could be contacted for comment yesterday.

By Dave Black

The Journal

14 July 2008