Controversial plans for a wind farm in the Northumberland countryside have been given final approval, after pleas to re-open a public inquiry were ignored.
The Government has announced it is giving full consent to plans for 16 turbines, 125m high, on the Ray Estate, near Kirkwhelplington, despite Newcastle Airport and local objectors having asked for another chance to comment.
The 56-megawatt project from Vattenfall Wind Power Ltd was announced in 2005, but due to its size a decision on it would have to be made by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, rather than local councillors.
Objections came from residents, parish councils, and the Campaign for Responsible Energy Development in Tynedale (CREDIT) group – all of whom were concerned at the impact on the landscape.
The scheme was also opposed by the airport, the Ministry of Defence, and National Air Traffic Services (NATS), who said that the turbines would interfere with radar in the area.
The Ray project was heard at an 11-month public inquiry which ended in December 2008, alongside applications for wind farms at Green Rigg and Steadings. In March, then secretary of state for energy and climate change Ed Miliband announced he was minded to consent the Ray project – against the advice of his planning inspector.
He proposed a condition preventing construction work beginning until a solution to the radar issues is ready to be implemented.
The inspector who heard the inquiry had recommended the project be refused because he believed there was little prospect of that solution being ready within the five years the developer would have to begin work.
Mr Miliband announced he was basing his decision on new evidence which had come to light since the inquiry.
The new Labour party leader offered interested parties the chance to make written submissions or to request that the inquiry be re-opened.
Requests for a re-think or the re-opening of the inquiry came in from the airport, NATS, CREDIT and a local vicar.
But now Mr Miliband’s successor, Charles Hendry, has ruled that the final consent, with the radar condition, can be given, ignoring the objectors’ pleas.
Last night, David Hodkinson, Vattenfall’s director and head of development, said: “We are delighted with the decision by the UK government to grant planning permission for Vattenfall’s Ray wind farm as it is an important step forward for the project.
“We would like to thank our supporters in Northumberland and in particular (landowner) Lord Devonport who has stuck with this proposal for several years. We will continue to engage with the local community as we continue to develop the proposal.”
Karen Archbold, a member of CREDIT, said: “It is inconsistent, it is unfair to the parties at the inquiry because we would like to know what this new evidence is. It just beggars belief.”
The airport said that it was still reviewing Mr Hendry’s decision and would comment once it had given the matter full consideration.
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