The controversial Kirkharle wind farm in Northumberland would not have a significant effect upon a picturesque conservation area, a heritage expert claims.
The four proposed turbines east of Bavington Hill Head Farm would have only a “minor impact”, Dr Jonathan Edis told a public inquiry.
And two listed buildings near the proposed development were capable of taking change, according to Dr Edis.
RWE Npower Renewables wants to build four 125-metre turbines but has been met with a wave of objections.
Northumberland County Council refused the application – reduced from an original eight-turbine plan – because of the effect it would have on the area and its residents in and around Great Bavington village.
But RWE has taken the case to appeal, claiming the council failed to give notice within the statutory 16-week deadline.
Dr Edis, a cultural heritage assessor, giving evidence on the fifth day of the inquiry in Hexham, said of the RWE application: “I consider it to be acceptable in terms of its affect on the environment.
“The turbines will clearly be outside the conservation area, on land which is not land from which one appreciates the conservation area.
“The effect will amount to a visual change, but it will not affect the historical qualities of the settlement or the conservation area.
“Anyone walking into the village would be aware of the turbines within their peripheral vision but they would not find the historical character and interest of the village significantly affected.”
Two listed buildings built of medieval stone – Easterhouse Cottage and the United Reformed Church – stand within the conservation area.
Dr Edis said the buildings “are of aesthetic value and interest” but added: “The surroundings have been subject to change and are capable of taking further change.”
Northumberland is under pressure from central government to meet rising targets on green energy production. RWE says the Kirkharle development should be granted as part of the target, but the county council says the impact of the scheme as it stands would be too great, though a lesser proposal might be looked upon more favourably.
Council heritage officer Elaine Grey said: “The views from Great Bavington are critical to maintaining its character and must be protected.”
But barrister David Hardy, representing RWE, says Northumberland faces a significant shortfall on target figures and Energy Minister Chris Huhne has issued guidelines saying that the greater the need, the more weight should be attached to applications.
In evidence, Dr Edis claimed the Kirkharle turbines would be “increasingly screened” by vegetation and under cross-examination from Paul Tucker, QC for the county council, he said: “As a general proposition, wind farms can sit comfortably.
“Things have a tendency to start off being objectionable to people, but in time become more acceptable.”
The inquiry will continue today.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding