Objectors have won the first round of their fight to prevent a windfarm being built at Kiln Pit Hill.
A petition bearing more than 200 names, and more than 100 individual letters of objection to the proposal from NPower Renewables for six turbines on a 54-hectare site near the A68, have paid off.
Tynedale Council’s development control committee on Wednesday rejected the application – but the real decision had already been taken out of the council’s hands.
Because Tynedale had taken too long to determine the application, NPower has already lodged an appeal with the Secretary of State, and there will have to be a public inquiry.
Rather than a planning decision, Wednesday’s meeting was therefore more about Tynedale preparing its case for the inquiry.
On the day of the meeting, it was confirmed that the designation of the Kiln Pit Hill area as an “area of least constraint” for windfarm development had been reaffirmed by the Government.
Balanced against that, though, was a study by influential consultants Arup that the Kiln Pit Hill area could only support a maximum of three turbines.
The six turbines could be as much as 100 metres tall to the blade tip, and would generate enough energy to power 6,200 households, as well as offsetting 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from a conventional power station.
Councillors heard the application had aroused considerable indignation in the Shotley area, where 181 of the 250 households had signed the petition.
Reasons for the individual objections covered two pages of the agenda, ranging from the impact on the setting of the listed St Andrew’s Church and the Hopper Mausoleum, to the effect on road safety on the A68, the impact on low-flying aircraft and horses, and possible interference with television reception.
As well as petitions and letters, there were objections from both Shotley Low Quarter and Healey parish councils, and from Tynedale’s own senior conservation officer.
There were also objections from English Heritage, which said the proposals would be “very damaging” to the setting of the nearby Grade I listed Hopper monument, and the Grade II listed St Andrew’s Parish Church on Greymare Hill.
Another strong objection came from the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty partnership, and lending their weight to the “no” lobby were the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Ramblers’ Association, the British Horse Society and the Northumberland Renewables group.
Newcastle Airport also lodged an objection, as two of the six turbines would create line of sight issues for the airport’s radar.
Perhaps significantly however, the Ministry of Defence had no objections, as it was satisfied that the impact of the turbines on RAF Spadeadam was “manageable.”
The scheme was not without its supporters, including big hitters the regional development agency One NorthEast.
It pointed out the site was in the area identified by the Government as having least constraint for wind energy development, and had the potential to make a significant contribution towards the production of energy from renewable sources.
There were 13 letters expressing support for the project, saying that more renewable energy was needed to tackle climate change.
The turbines were described as “graceful structures” which would be a positive visual feature on the A68.
One objector said: “The siting of turbines close to St Andrew’s Church would provide a positive message that steps are being taken to generate energy in a more sustainable way, which would take proper care of God’s creation.”
Recommending that the proposal be turned down, director of planning Helen Winter said it was contrary to national planning policy, given the sustained objections from Newcastle Airport.
She added: “It is acknowledged that the windfarm would bring benefits in terms of addressing issues of climate change, by providing renewable electricity, giving rise to a reduction in the emissions of carbon dioxide.
“However, these benefits would not outweigh the considerable harm with its impact on the historical heritage of the area, and the landscape setting of nationally important listed buildings.”
By Brian Tilley
17 July 2008