Campaigners have given a warm welcome to an energy giant’s decision to withdraw an application for eight 115m high wind turbines at West Ancroft.
However, residents have expressed concern that E.ON is merely withdrawing the application before submitting a new scheme for fewer turbines, following the company’s statement last week.
An E.ON spokesperson said: “After carefully reviewing plans for our proposed West Ancroft wind farm following a recent public inquiry into nearby wind farm proposals, we have decided to withdraw our current planning application for an eight turbine scheme. We are now looking at the possibility of redesigning the project as a smaller development.
“Renewable energy has an important role to play in securing a low carbon future for the UK and we remain committed to developing wind farms where we think they can make a valuable contribution to meeting renewable energy targets with as little impact on the local environment as possible.”
The company’s u-turn has been well received by the chairman of the local opposition group, but the possibility of another application continues to frustrate local residents.
Ian Corsie, chairman of West Ancroft Community Action (WACA), told the Advertiser: “E.ON have taken a long time to recognise the blindingly obvious – their scheme contravenes local, regional and national planning guidance and did not stand a chance of getting planning approval after the planning inspector’s findings on Moorsyde.
“It has been hugely stressful. The Moorsyde scheme had already been blighting everybody’s lives for over four years when E.ON applied for eight even larger turbines on the neighbouring West Ancroft site in April last year.”
The Moorsyde proposal for seven 110m high turbines was rejected by the secretary of state following the recommendation of the planning inspector who presided over a joint public inquiry into the Moorsyde, Toft Hill and Barmoor wind farm appeals last year.
The six turbines at Barmoor, less than two-and-a-half miles south of West Ancroft, were approved.
Mr Corsie added that residents now fear a long period of uncertainty while E.ON lets the dust settle before revealing if they intend to submit a new application, and the long, drawn out process that may ensue.
Mr Corsie said: “Another application would bring with it further delays whilst consultations, investigations and reports were prepared prior to the application being decided.
“If the application was then refused by local planners, E.ON would almost certainly appeal and many more months would elapse before a public inquiry could be arranged and the inspector’s report prepared.
“After Moorsyde, local people dread having to again raise very large funds in order to be properly represented at a public inquiry.
“There has to be an end to this,” Mr Corsie added.
“This area is being blighted by speculative wind farm developers. They are killing investment in the area and blighting people’s lives.”
The West Ancroft scheme has been hit by various mistakes and controversies since the application was submitted to the county council in April 2009.
The Advertising Standards Authority upheld two complaints against E.ON for the use of misleading images in adverts and promotional literature last July, after it found that E.ON ran adverts for its West Ancroft scheme using images of turbines that were less than half the size of those proposed.
Then, in December last year, WACA complained to Northumberland County Council that E.ON had misled councillors during a site visit because of the inaccurate positioning of straw bales to show turbine positions.
Opponents to the scheme alleged that one bale was up to 200m out of position, making it an extra 100m away from the nearest home than the proposed turbine would be.
However, E.ON said it was satisfied that the bale was positioned correctly and that councillors had also used photomontages of the proposed wind farm to give them an idea of how it would look.
But, those photomontages also came in for serious criticism after it appeared that a number of the proposed turbines were shown in wrong positions, and even in the wrong fields, in the computer generated images.