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New fears over wind farm plan

Concerns over a scheme that could see England’s biggest wind farm built in the region were voiced during a public meeting last night.

E.ON is carrying out tests to determine if farmland east of Newton Aycliffe, in County Durham, is suitable for between 25 and 45 turbines, each generating 2MW.

The energy firm published details of the scheme, known as the Isles, online, but later removed them, saying they were published in error.

However, the apparent blunder sparked concern from residents, which was expressed during a public meeting in Chilton Catholic Club, last night.

Phil Wilson, MP for Sedgefield, who called the meeting, said the area is saturated with wind farms and developers were still coming forward with plans for more.

Ged Lawson, senior landscape architect for Durham County Council, said the problem was the area had been designated an area of “least constraint” in the regional spatial strategy to encourage development and hit renewable energy targets.

However, Mr Lawson said County Durham had already hit its targets for 2020 and a further local document had suggested the Isles site is only suitable for six turbines.

But Mr Wilson said: “What you do if you’re E.ON is you go for broke and you say that you are going to put between 25 and 45 turbines there and that means the development is more than 50MW and the decision is made by the Government and taken out of our hands.”

Residents voiced concerns over the efficiency of wind turbines, but the meeting heard that efficiency, while still up for debate, was not a planning consideration.

One man called for the use of hydro-electric power instead of wind turbines, saying: “We’ve got plenty of rivers that flow all day long, why don’t they put something less intrusive in them?”

However, Mr Lawson said the problem with hydro-electric power is that, relatively speaking, it does not produce a great deal of energy, and that the key was a balanced approach to renewable energy using wind, hydro-electricity schemes and biomass power stations.

E.ON was not present at the meeting last night, nor at a meeting in Sedgefield on Friday evening, but the firm has said it has no proper plans in place and it is too early for consultations.

Mr Wilson said he had received some emails in support of the scheme, but said during last Friday’s meeting, in Ceddesfeld Hall, people were generally against the plan.

Meanwhile, Irish-based the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), has admitted the £30m West Durham Wind Farm, near Tow Law, County Durham, has broken down.

It is the North-East’s biggest wind farm and produces power for 15,700 homes, but ESB could not say when it will be running again.

A spokesman said “a local network outage” caused the wind farm to shut down on May 18 and an inspection revealed that there was further work to be done.

He said: “The wind farm will return to service when this remediation work is complete.”

A third public meeting to discuss the Isles wind farm scheme takes place tonight, at 6.30pm, in the Xcel Centre, Long Tens Way, Aycliffe Business Park, County Durham.