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Windfarm row just refuses to blow over

A council is to discuss lobbying central Government after hearing concerns about the county becoming a soft target for windfarms.

On Tuesday night, members of Northumberland County Council’s communities and place overview and scrutiny committee heard the concerns of county, parish and town councillors, as well as members of the public, over the increasing number of applications to erect windfarms across the county.

Bill Short, a retired business analyst and windfarm campaigner from Kirkwhelpington, told the meeting that Northumberland is producing far more energy from wind power compared to many other counties in the country.

“The comparison is stark,” he said.

“There is an enormous discretion and a great deal of difference between us and some of the other counties which have a similar population density.”

His figures show that windfarm developments approved by the county council could provide 312mw of power, compared to 293mw collectively in 24 other counties.

Mr Short said this means Northumberland is ‘being subjected to 55 times the level of wind development’ compared to a combined total of approved wind development in those counties.

He added: “Northumberland is being required to accept a peculiar and excessive proportion of the UK windfarm development that cannot be explained by differing resources.”

But Hugh Clear-Hill, the county council’s principal climate change and sustainability officer, said that the figures are based on applications approved, not those that are up and running.

“We do not know if all of these will come forward,” he said.

“They might not discharge the conditions, it is all part of the process.”

He added that when deciding on windfarm applications, planning committees have to fulfill government guidelines and emphasised that new policy will ‘not consider it appropriate for planning police to set targets for limits on different technologies’.

However John Thompson, chairman of Wingates Not Windfarms, an action group opposing windfarms surrounding the village, said: “It seems that the benefits of contributing to renewable energies seem to outweigh any harm they may cause on the area.”

Others said that other forms of renewable energy could be found.

Committee chairman Coun Glen Sanderson said that Northumberland is going above its renewable energy targets where others fall behind and added that the Government needs to know.

“There is not going to be a definitive stance on wind energy,” he said.

“We need to form some sort of county council resolution about lobbying Government.

“It has to be quite carefully thought out with officers to come to a conclusion.”

The topic is to be discussed at the next committee meeting in July.