A planning inspector who will hear an inquiry on a proposed Northumberland wind farm last night warned appellants that the Ministry of Defence’s opposition could be impossible to overcome.
David Cullingford was speaking at a pre-inquiry hearing into RidgeWind Ltd’s appeal against Berwick Borough Council’s refusal of its planning application to site 10 turbines at Wandylaw, near Chathill last October.
The MoD will be objecting to the proposal at the public inquiry in September on the basis the turbines would interfere with the RAF air defence radar at nearby Brizlee Wood.
And Mr Cullingford told the meeting, at St Paul’s United Reformed Church in Berwick: “If a reasonable likelihood of interference remains, it must be in the national interest to prevent the proposal. I can not see any way around that at the moment. It seems to me that is a matter of safety and national security.”
The inspector referred to a number of large wind farms around the country which have been permitted despite objections over proximity to a radar, subject to a condition whereby mitigation measures must be in place prior to construction.
Yet he said no such measures have been identified and implemented in any case.
However Vincent Fraser, for RidgeWind, said his client did not accept there would be a need for mitigation measures.
The hearing also heard the inspector sympathise with calls for the inquiry to be delayed until the result of a similar hearing into a bid to site 18 turbines at nearby Middlemoor is known. That scheme attracted an identical MoD objection.
Tina Douglass, appearing for objector Save Northumberland’s Environment, said her group would be “spending money with no good object” in appearing at the forthcoming inquiry should the MoD’s argument lead to a rejection of Middlemoor, as that could lead to a similar outcome at Wandylaw.
But Mr Cullingford said: “The response would be that we have a duty to hear inquiries as quickly and expeditiously as possible and they will not adjourn the inquiry.” A decision would determine the need to discuss the cumulative impact of the Wandylaw and Middlemoor schemes, an issue which was raised at the Middlemoor hearing.
The inspector said he had made a number of approaches to the secretary of state regarding the Middlemoor decision, and had been “curtly rebuffed,” but would make further attempts before the inquiry.
Yet Mr Fraser insisted the Middlemoor decision may be of no relevance.
The inspector also told the hearing the argument that Wandylaw should be rejected as north Northumberland could be nearing saturation in terms of wind farms, would be unlikely to succeed at the inquiry.
Middlemoor and three other schemes near Berwick are all in the offing but Mr Cullingford said the Government is now looking to increase the number of wind farms across the country by 2020.
The Wandylaw site lies within an area identified as being of least constraint for wind farm development and Mr Cullingford said objectors would have to prove to him it would cause “significant harm,” as opposed to the normal test of “harm”. The inquiry begins at Berwick Rugby Club on September 16.
By Brian Daniel
15 July 2008
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