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Wind farm developer comes under fire over 'inaccurate' images

Moorsyde photomontages have again been criticised by an expert landscape witness during the triple wind farm inquiry.

The inquiry, taking place at The Maltings, Berwick, is examining wind farm proposals at Barmoor by Catamount Energy, at Moorsyde by Moorsyde Wind Farm Ltd, and at Toft Hill by npower.

Derek Woolerton, a chartered landscape architect, and expert witness for Northumberland County Council, was cross-examined by the appellants yesterday.

When questioned by Elizabeth Dunn, advocate for Moorsyde Wind Farm Ltd, he said some photomontages produced in support of the Moorsyde application were ‘highly unsatisfactory and quite unhelpful.’

Mr Woolerton added that the computer generated images were ‘inadequate’ and conformed to minimum guidance only, a point that opposition group Moorsyde Action Group have long argued, and said that they ‘ranged from very very good to very very poor.’

However, when asked about the most recent, revised, visual documentation, Mr Woolerton conceded: “Technically, we now have a set of photomontages that are useable and useful at this stage.”

Earlier at the inquiry, Mr Woolerton had described the initial photomontages produced for Moorsyde as ‘sub-standard’ and pointed out inaccuracies.

Yesterday, he said: “Some of the photomontages don’t show turbines that are supposed to show their impact and some are located poorly, with hedges in the way.

“To offer anything less than what is seen in the field in not best practice,” he added.

Mr Woolerton was also critical of consultants appointed by the former Berwick Borough Council to advise them on the quality of material produced by the developers prior to the initial planning committee meeting on the applications.

Mr Woolerton said: “They failed to advise Berwick adequately on some aspects of the visual impact assessments. If they had been truly competent they would have spotted errors with the visual documentation.”

A report, produced by consultants Arup, which outlined areas of least constraint in north Northumberland for wind farm development, was also discussed by Mrs Dunn and Mr Woolerton in the cross-examination.

Mr Woolerton said he believed that the report was not as detailed as it could have been in terms of assessing the potential impact of turbines on individual properties and settlements, arguing that the study was so wide-ranging that it had not looked at individual properties.

However, Mrs Dunn said: “We’ve had confirmation from Arup that they did take individual properties into account.”

Paul Tucker, counsel appointed by Northumberland County Council, then intervened, asking why this evidence had not been produced to the inquiry and the parties involved.

“This is not a desperately satisfactory way to bring forward evidence,” he said.

Mrs Dunn responded that Moorsyde Wind Farm Ltd would attempt to get written confirmation of the statement from Arup.

The inspector, Ruth MacKenzie, warned Mrs Dunn that she did not wish more evidence to be brought forward to the inquiry in such a way and at such a stage in proceedings, and urged that a written statement from Arup was required to clarify the situation regarding the study.

Later in the day, Mr Woolerton was cross-examined by David Hardy on behalf of npower, with Duddo stones an important part of the questioning.

Mr Woolerton, in one response, said: “It is quite clear that Duddo stones are of vital importance and this cultural heritage is key. We must conserve the best in the region and in Britain.”

The inquiry continues.