Campaigners have vowed to fight a proposal to erect England’s biggest wind farm in County Durham – despite its communities being in line for a £11.5m windfall if the scheme goes ahead.
Energy company E.ON today publishes its plans to erect between 25 and 45 turbines east of Newton Aycliffe.
The Isles wind farm would have a capacity of up to 115MW – enough to power 53,000 homes.
E.ON has pledged to pay up to £460,000 a year into a community benefits fund, if the scheme is approved.
The money would be paid for the lifetime of the wind farm – potentially 25 years.
The application would be one of the first in the region to be fast tracked by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) – an independent body that examines applications of national significance.
A final decision would then be made by the Secretary of State.
But community leaders are already drawing up plans to derail the proposal, which they say would leave rural households surrounded by huge turbines.
E.ON will launch a formal consultation on August 31 with people asked to consider three different proposals for 29, 30 or 45 turbines.
However, Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson, who is orchestrating the protest campaign, said: “This shouldn’t be about how many turbines we are having – we don’t want any.”
E.ON says the proposed site’s good wind speeds, connections to the national grid and nearby motorway make it ideal for a large wind farm.
According to Dave Rogers, regional director of E.ON Climate & Renewables, the company understands the concerns of communities close to the development sites.
He said: “We consider ourselves to be a very responsible developer and will ensure that communities close to our proposed Isles wind farm have the opportunity to have their views considered as part of the development.
“All feedback will be considered and will help to shape our proposal for the site.”
The company has also promised to establish a community liaison group and visit schools to teach children about energy.
The site boundary covers 1,180 hectares and includes an area formerly included in the now abandoned A1 wind farm proposal.
Turbines could be erected near Newton Aycliffe and Chilton, as well as the villages of Woodham, Bradbury, Mordon and Preston-le-Skerne.
A number of wind farms have already been built, or had plans approved, in the area, including the Butterwick, Walkway, and Lamb’s Hill developments.
Further applications have been submitted for the Moor House, Foxton Lane and East Newbiggin wind farms.
Jean Gillespie, chairwoman of Bradbury Parish Meeting, said residents had a number of concerns about the scheme.
“Firstly, it’s the scale – this is a huge development.
“There are also concerns about the combined effects of these wind farms.
“If this goes ahead, we would be surrounded by turbines.”
Mrs Gillespie also highlighted the disparity between the number of turbines being erected in the North of the country compared with the South. In a debate on energy policy in the House of Commons last night, Mr Wilson pointed out that only five cabinet ministers had wind farms in their constituencies.
He said: “Of course, there is a need for renewable energy.
There is a need for a national plan, but that plan must involve the whole nation, a plan which means share the burden, not just the benefit.”
The first consultation will last until October 7, with a second planned for next year.
A series of public consultation sessions will be held at The Xcel Centre, Newton Aycliffe, from 1pm to 8pm on September 8; Sedgefield Racecourse, from 1pm to 8pm on September 9 and Chilton and Windlestone Working Mens’ Club from 9am to 2pm on September 10.
An application for a development consent order is likely to be submitted towards the end of next year.