November 27, 2010

Watchdog too tame for wind protesters

by Paul Tully, The Journal, 27 November 2010

Anti-wind farm campaigners claim they have been dealt an unfair hand on a special watchdog group set up to oversee a long turbine project.

RWE npower renewables has started work on the site at Kiln Pit Hill on the Northumberland-Durham border where six 99-metre wind turbines will be built by mid-2012.

But campaigners who fought the plans all the way to appeal 22 months ago now say they are being denied proper representation on the liaison group put in place by the company to oversee the development.

As preliminary work got under way on the picturesque site this week, Andy Thompson, of nearby Unthank Farm, said: “We have only four local residents on the liaison group, including me, which is largely made up of council people and npower people.

“A lot of local people put their names forward but npower chose who was on the group and that is the main concern of a lot of residents. I think it is only fair that if there is a willingness of the community to take part in this liaison group, the community should be properly represented on it.”

The first meeting of the group was held in September and the second is scheduled for December 8 at the Derwent Manor Hotel near Allensford.

Mr Thompson, who is retired, said he was also concerned about safety on the approaches from the A68 as preliminary highways work started this week.

He added that plant machinery deliveries were taking place at 7.30am – against the planning restrictions forbidding deliveries before 8am.

A spokesman for npower renewables said: “We are very conscious of the fact that the original planning exercise generated a significant amount of interest from residents in and around Kiln Pit Hill. Now that pre-construction work has started, we are keen to ensure that local communities are kept informed about progress – as well as giving them an opportunity to raise with us any concerns they might have.

“The setting up of a community liaison group, a regularly updated website and the production of a residents’ newsletter are all part of our desire to work closely with all interested parties.

“So far as the composition of the CLG is concerned, we are happy that we have a good cross-section of community representatives and a respected chairman (Trevor Thorne, county planning committee vice-chairman) who is totally independent of the company.

“We are also aware that one of our suppliers made an unscheduled early morning delivery this week and for that we apologise. The company involved has been told it must not happen again.”

The wind farm is predicted to produce enough power for the annual energy needs of 6,400 homes.

Karen Ledger, interim head of management and planning strategy at Northumberland County Council, said it had taken up the early delivery with the company and would continue to monitor the situation.

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