One of the most popular beauty spots in the region could be “sandwiched” by wind farm developments – after another planning application was submitted.
Banks Renewables wants to build five 115m turbines between the village of Woodland and Hamsterley Forest.
Arcus Renewable Energy in 2009 proposed building another four 115-metre turbines nearby.
And last month, Pure Renewable Energy submitted a planning application for a wind monitoring mast at West Shipley Farm, on the other side of the forest.
The landowner wants to find out whether the site is suitable for a wind turbine development.
Hamsterley and Upper Gaunless Action Group (Hugag) has major concerns.
When Banks Renewables held a public exhibition last week at Hamsterley Village Hall, the protest group set up a stall outside, using large posters to make its point.
Objector Peter Shield said: “We’re talking about the Durham Dales, we’re talking about one of the jewels in County Durham’s crown. This area is a major, major tourist attraction and vital for the economy and increasingly important.
“The very idea of building these turbines on this landscape, which is the very reason why people chose to come here, strikes me as ludicrous.”
Mr Shield said members of Hugag were also concerned about the impact on wildlife.
Protestors also say the site is also too close to the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – less than two miles away.
Concerns have also been made about the access route to the site, which runs over an old coalfield.
In its pamphlets, Banks Renewables had claimed noise levels in a quite bedroom stood at 35dB(A) compared to turbines at around 40dB(A). But Mr Shield said the Government puts a quiet bedroom at 20 dB(A)
Katie Perkins, representing Banks Renewables, said the company expected to submit a full planning application next month.
She said fears about the access route were unfounded and that officials from the Highways Authority and Durham County Council would only give permission if they were happy with the plan.
Martyn Earle, development planner for Banks, said the visual impact of wind turbines was subjective.
He said: “There will be some who are for and some who are against. Our original scoping report was for nine turbines but this figure is now five.
“We think this proposal is acceptable – people will be able to see them but they will not be an incongruous feature. I’m not the only one who believes this area has potential for wind turbine development.”
Mr Earle said the company had carried out extensive wildlife surveys and that bird strike, which happens when birds fly into the blades, would not have an “over bearing impact”. He also dismissed claims that further wind farms would be built in the future if the plans of Banks were approved.
Farmer Robin Peart, who lives a few hundred yards from the site, attended last week’s exhibition and welcomed the initiative.
Mr Peart said: “I think they are quite a good idea – and we have to do something because oil is running out. So long as they don’t damage wildlife, turbines are a good thing.
“Maybe in future generations, wind farms will be treated as the norm – like power lines are now.”
Members of Bolam Area Action Group, which last year defeated a wind farm plan, also attended the exhibition.
Meanwhile, in a planning statement, Pure Renewable Energy said its plan of erecting a wind monitoring mast at West Shipley Farm was justified.
“The development of renewable energy projects is one of the core components of Government energy policy and energy generation strategy and the objectives and targets set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address the issue of climate change,” the company said.
However, Durham Bird Club and the County Durham branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England have objected. Gillan Gibson, from the group, said: “This is an area of such landscape value close to the popular tourist attraction of Hamsterley Forest that members believe an objection is appropriate.”
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