The developers of a windfarm near Kirkwhelpington have run out of patience with planners.
For two years after the application for eight turbines on land east of Bavington Hill Head Farm was submitted, Northumberland County Council still hasn’t reached a conclusion.
Applicant RWE npower renewables has therefore gone over the council’s head, and appealed directly to the Secretary of State on the grounds of non-determination.
However, planners say they are not to blame for any delay in processing the application.
It was submitted to the former Tynedale Council in November 2008, before being handed on to the present county council’s central planning team on reorganisation in April last year.
Objectors had raised a large number of concerns about the application, so a letter seeking further information was sent to RWE in March last year.
The council did not receive a reply, so the application lay on the file.
On September 8 this year, RWE appealed to the Secretary of State on the grounds of non-determination by the local planning authority, and asked for a public inquiry.
In response, the council’s planning committee resolved on Tuesday formally to refuse the application due to lack of information.
The application for eight wind turbines and associated infrastructure attracted a large number of objections, notably from the Ministry of Defence, Newcastle Airport and the National Air Traffic Control Service.
All claimed the turbines could affect their radar facilities, with the MoD particularly concerned about the impact on RAF Spadeadam.
There were also objections from three parish councils – Kirkwhelpington, Bavington and Birtley – which had multiple concerns about the scheme.
Further objections came from the British Horse Society, which was concerned about the impact on a nearby bridleway.
As well as the formal consultations, there were also 37 letters of objection from the general public.
The catalogue of criticism covered the effect on the landscape, the cumulative impact following the granting of other windfarm applications nearby, the effect on tourism, impact on the environment in terms of noise and health, shadow flicker, impact on wildlife, aviation issues, traffic and road safety, grid connection and the effect on TV and telecommunications.
In her report to the committee, planning officer Sue Birnie said the proposal was for two clusters of four turbines – each of which would be 125m high to the tip of the blades – spread over nearly 500 acres of agricultural land.
Each turbine would be capable of generating 1.5-3MW, and the windfarm would have a total capacity of 12-24MW.
The application also included the siting of two permanent meteorological masts and two electricity sub-stations, as well as a network of permanent access tracks throughout the site and between each cluster.
The turbines would be connected to each other via underground cable.
Construction of the windfarm would take place over 10-12 months, and once complete, it would have a life of 25 years, at the end of which it would be decommissioned.
In her assessment of the situation, Mrs Birnie said a full environmental statement had been submitted with the application, but this was deemed “seriously deficient” in a number of areas.
Further information was required on the proposals’ contribution to the wider energy needs, landscape and visual impact, possible effects on birdlife, the impact on cultural heritage, the effects of noise and the impacts on aviation.
Tynedale Council had asked for more information, but had never received a satisfactory reply.
Mrs Birnie acknowledged that the area around Kirkwhelpington was “of much interest” to the wind energy industry.
However, since the Kirkharle planning application had been submitted, permission for the adjacent Steadings site has been refused.
Permission had been granted for a windfarm at adjacent Green Rigg, and a “minded to approve” verdict had been made on the Ray site.
She said it had not been possible for the planning authority to appraise the environmental impact of the windfarm development because of the lack of information from RWE.
She therefore recommended that planning permission be formally refused, and the committee agreed.
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