August 12, 2011

Nuclear weapons test treaty could halt Cumbrian windfarm plan

By Julian Whittle, The Cumberland News, 12 August 2011

An international treaty banning nuclear weapons tests could scupper proposals for wind turbines at Hallburn, east of Longtown.

Planning officers say that vibrations or ‘seismic noise’ from the turbines might prevent scientists at Eskdalemuir, 25 miles away, from monitoring nuclear tests on the other side of the world.

As such, it could prevent the UK from meeting its obligations under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Carlisle City Council is expected to refuse planning consent next Friday.

The outcome will delight opponents of the windfarm. A protest group, Block Longtown Wind Turbines (Blow) is fighting the scheme.

Energy company Cornwall Light and Power wants to build six, 415ft-high turbines, which objectors say would stand three times as tall as Carlisle Civic Centre and be visible for miles around.

The council has received 266 letters and e-mails, and a 289-signature petition, against the scheme as well as 89 expressions of support.

The planning officers’ report says: “The turbines will generate additional seismic noise that will compromise the capability of the UK to detect distant nuclear tests.” The only solution, the report adds, would be to fit dampeners to reduce vibration not only on the six new turbines but on other turbines in north Cumbria and southern Scotland.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) says its equipment at Eskdalemuir in Dumfriesshire can tolerate a degree of seismic noise but existing wind turbines mean it is at the limit and can cope with no more.

Councillors are also expected to refuse permission for a wind-monitoring mast at Roadhead, planned as the forerunner of 30 turbines at nearby Stone Chest and at Black Knors, north of Blackpool Gate.

Again the MoD has objected. It argues that the mast would interfere with low-flying at nearby RAF Spadeadam, the only place in Europe where Nato forces can do electronic-warfare training.

The planning officers’ report says: “The MoD has confirmed that the proposed monitoring mast will be a physical obstruction that, at this location, will have a detrimental impact on flight safety and operations.”

Banks Renewables, the company involved, already has planning consent for a similar mast at Roweltown where it hopes to build 10 turbines up to 400ft high.

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