The future of a major north wind farm development could depend on this modest property in the middle of nowhere.
Grey Mare Hill Fields stands at the heart of a site where permission has already been granted for a six-turbine wind farm that could power over 6,000 homes.
But the collection of barns, outbuildings and a caravan that is home to a lone woman could be the deciding factor in the eventual fate of the controversial wind farm that is already into the second phase of construction.
RWE npower renewables hopes to have the 12-megawatt energy base in open fields at Kiln Pit Hill, near the Northumberland-Durham border, in full operation by mid-2012.
The company has gone through a lengthy application and appeal process dating back to 2006 and was finally granted permission to go ahead, despite massive objections, in early 2009.
But now it has been brought to the attention of Northumberland County Council that Laura Hessell, a local parish councillor, lives on the isolated site between the turbine stations.
And because she would be within the 300-metre “toppling” distance and the guideline noise distance of the 100-metre-high turbines, there could be complications over the wind farm’s future.
A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “We are currently investigating the situation. We were informed there was someone living in that property and, as we were informed, we have a duty to follow that up.
“The issue is the legality of the dwelling, and that is what we are investigating at this moment.
“That will eventually be the baseline for anything that happens in the future. But at the moment npower has the planning permission to construct its development and work is continuing.”
At Grey Mare Hill Fields, Mrs Hessell, a Shotley Low Quarter parish councillor who lives in a caravan within a barn and keeps horses on site, declined to formally comment on the situation.
But she said she had lived there for 25 years and had an official postal address.
From the site, the Grade One-Listed Hopper Mausoleum and adjacent Grade Two-Listed St Andrew’s Church are visible.
Those two monuments formed the basis of objections to the original wind farm application as protesters including English Heritage claimed the development would compromise the historic and picturesque setting.
RWE npower appealed after the former Tynedale Council failed to resolve the application within prescribed time limits and in February 2009 won the verdict of a Government Inspector.
A spokesman for RWE npower renewables said yesterday: “We have been working with Northumberland County Council to comply with the planning conditions and to ensure that we have received all the consents necessary to commence construction. We have completed the highway upgrade work, which is Phase One of construction. Phase Two, which involves the main construction works, is currently under way.
“Any other planning matters are outside of RWE npower renewables’ control and are a matter for the local planning authority to address.”
Andy Thomson, of the Kiln Pit Hill Liaison Group, said: “The application has gone through yet there is no way they can comply with the conditions in relation to Grey Mare Hill Fields.
“There is toppling distance, there is noise distance, and there is also light flicker.
“ I understand that Nos 1 and 4 turbines will not comply due to proximity to a resident. My concern is if they would have got planning permission had it been brought to the Inspector’s attention that there was someone living at Grey Mare Hill Fields.”
Another Kiln Pit Hill resident, Steve McIntyre, said: “I’ve lived here 15 years and this lady has been there as long as I can remember. It is presenting the council and the developer with a real headache, but to be fair it is one of their own making.”
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