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Dismay at wind farm approval for Wingates, near Rothbury

Controversial plans for a wind farm in the Northumberland countryside have been approved, to the dismay of residents.

The planning application from Inifinis (Novera) for six turbines at Wingates, near Rothbury, has been approved by Northumberland County Council.

Objectors were last night angered by the decision, claiming local opposition had been overriden by national policy, and feared the approval may open the floodgates for other schemes.

The application was submitted to the now defunct Alnwick District Council in 2008. It has been opposed since then by residents, who formed the Wingates not Wind Farms action group.

A total of 75 letters of objection were submitted by local people, along with a petition of 141 signatures. Opposition also came in from four parish councils – Brinkburn and Hesleyhurst, Longhorsley, Netherwitton, and Nunnykirk.

Locals feared the proposal would ruin views of countryside, including the Simonside hills and Northumberland National Park.

Worries were also voiced over impact on tourism, health and wildlife, noise, the local road network to cope with traffic during construction, and distraction of drivers. Northumberland National Park Authority also objected, while concerns were voiced by the Civil Aviation Authority and the Forestry Commission.

Newcastle International Airport initially opposed the scheme, claiming the turbines would be visible from its main radar and would “have an impact on airport operations and safety”.

However, the airport withdrew its objection at the last minute having signed a legal agreement with Infinis by which the developer will fund measures to mitigate the impact of the turbines on the airport’s radar. There were 57 letters of support for the scheme.

Council planning officers recommended the scheme be approved, claiming the importance of meeting regional energy targets outweighed local objections. And at the council’s planning and environment committee, members voted eight to two in favour of granting approval.

Last night, action group chairman John Thompson hit out at the council’s decision.

He said: “It appears again that issues or national policy have overriden anything that can be brought up locally. It seems that the local people and the local issues were ignored in favour of wider issues, government policies.”

Stephen Hannay, project director for Infinis, said: “We are delighted that the planning committee has approved the Wingates wind farm application. We look forward to being a good neighbour and engaging with the parish councils and local people in the months ahead.”