Villagers who are fighting a renewed bid for a 500-acre opencast coal mine on their doorsteps also look set to have three giant wind turbines built close to their rural community.
County councillors will be recommended next week to approve an application by green energy firm Wind Prospect Ltd for the six-megawatt wind farm at Boundary Lane, 1.2km south of Whittonstall in Northumberland. Planning officers say the 110-metre-high turbines will help the county to make its required contribution to a tough new target of generating 30% of the UK’s energy needs through renewables by 2020.
The Wind Prospect scheme is one of three separate energy developments currently taking shape in the area, which is near the Northumberland/Durham border and 4.5km from the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Journal revealed yesterday how UK Coal has submitted an application to dig 2.2 million tonnes of coal over a seven-year period from Hoodsclose near Whittonstall – where opencasting was twice rejected three decades ago following widespread protests.
In addition, RWE npower has started work on building six 99-metre-tall wind turbines at nearby Kiln Pit Hill, which will be completed by mid-2012.
Objections to the Wind Prospect scheme at Boundary Lane have been made by Shotley Low Quarter Parish Council and people in 18 local households.
Some say it should be rejected because a previous study concluded the Kiln Pit Hill area was only suitable for one small wind farm, with turbines of a maximum height of 80 metres.
Objectors say three more massive turbines will result in a damaging cumulative impact on the landscape, spoil views and affect wildlife.
Local resident Kevin Rooney, said: “The visual impact of turbines of the scale proposed would be catastrophic.”
Yesterday John Walton, who has lived in Whittonstall for 44 years and is part of the local group opposing UK Coal’s opencast scheme, said the village and surrounding area was under pressure from developers.
“The Kiln Pit Hill wind farm is under way, we have the new opencast plan and there is also the turbines at Boundary Lane,” he said. “I think there are those who have opposed all of these schemes who feel we are being attacked on all sides. The turbines at Boundary Lane are fairly big, but the village lies in the lea of higher ground and perhaps they will be just out of sight.
“However, there is quite a lot of opposition from more outlying people who believe the turbines will change the view.”
A report to next week’s meeting of the county council planning and environment committee says Boundary Lane is not within a protected landscape and lies in an area where limited wind turbines are considered acceptable.
Planning officer Frances Wilkinson says the three turbines would power just over 3,000 homes a year and make a “relatively small but important” contribution to meeting Northumberland’s renewable energy targets.
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