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Villagers lose battle against turbines  

Credit:  Northumberland Gazette, www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk 8 April 2011 ~~

Despondent faces told the story as villagers left this week’s county planning meeting after it approved a windfarm a mile from their community.

Two councillors voted against the six 110m turbines at Wingates, near Longhorsley, saying it was time to make a stand, but eight voted in favour.

Committee chairman Coun Trevor Thorne said the company, Infinis (formerly Novera), had produced a good application, which had been examined since 2008.

He said he had misgivings as the National Park Authority believed it should be turned down because of the effect on the park, just over a mile away.

But he added: “The main concern is the impact on the village – and yes, there will be an impact on the village. I think it has been alleviated by the sensitivity of the developer in putting the turbines to the west.”

“It was a difficult issue, but on planning grounds there was a case for approving it. That was in line with the planning officers’ recommendation.”

John Thompson, of Wingates Not Windfarms, said after Tuesday evening’s meeting he was very disappointed, adding: “Apart from the chairman, there was very little reference to the people and the village.”

Newcastle Airport withdrew its objection when Infinis agreed to fund radar blanking to prevent interference with the air traffic control system.

But blanking must be used sparingly, so though there are 33 turbine proposals near Wingates, none of the others is likely to go ahead.

Mr Thompson told the committee at County Hall that objectors were local – 75 wrote letters and 141 signed a petition – but the 57 supporters were mostly from outside the area. All surrounding parish councils objected, as well as Northumberland National Park Authority.

He argued that contrary to planners’ advice, the county had already met its target for renewable energy generation.

That was denied by the head of development management, Karen Ledger, who said only turbines already constructed could be counted and because of technical difficulties, some approved in the Knowesgate area might not go ahead.

The meeting heard from project director Stephen Hannay that Infinis was first to select Wingates as a prospective site and had reduced its initial proposal for seven turbines up to 130m tall.

Rothbury councillor Steven Bridgett said local people felt their way of life was threatened by the windfarm plan. Villagers had spoken of it as a noose around the community’s neck.

“How can this report conclude that it would not have an impact on the character of the landscape?”

Coun John Taylor agreed it would be noticeable from the hills near Rothbury, saying Northumberland was the land of far horizons “which we are diminishing regularly.”

But despite Government pledges to put power in local hands, there was no guidance allowing councillors to block such schemes.

He said: “It would be better, in my view, if members would support approval of this application because it would give us stronger grounds to oppose any future application.”

Coun Wayne Daley said two huge turbines approved by the Secretary of State in his home town of Cramlington were eyesores. He was keen to see turbines built offshore, as at Blyth.

“Not all windfarm applications are equal,” he said. “Because of factors such as the airport radar, it was first come, first served. Appeals were dealt with by people living far away.

“Until decisions were wholly in local hands, we’re as much use as a chocolate fireguard, to be honest. But some windfarms are totally inappropriate to approve and for that reason I’m not minded to support this. I think we have just got to make a stand.”

No one from Infinis was available for comment. Public inquiries will be held for windfarms proposed at Park Head, near Netherwitton, on June 28 and at Kirkharle on July 26.

Source:  Northumberland Gazette, www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk 8 April 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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