The region must not become the “land of the wind turbine” the Government was told yesterday, as a campaign against a dramatic increase in wind farms was stepped up.
Phil Wilson, the Sedgefield MP, staged a Commons debate to urge ministers to curb the spread of developments, saying: “Local people feel inundated and helpless.”
The warning came after a consultation was launched on E.ON’s plans to build up to 45 turbines on a site east of Newton Aycliffe – potentially the biggest wind farm in England.
Describing that proposal as the “mother of all wind farms”, Mr Wilson told MPs: “Local people are resentful of a planning regime that does not seem to listen to them.”
In response, energy minister Charles Hendry noted that the E.ON bid was out to consultation, saying: “I can’t comment on particular applications.”
But he offered hope to campaigners against the proposal, agreeing that County Durham had many wind farms and saying: “We recognise the contribution that they are making.”
Mr Hendry added: “We need to ensure that wind farms are in suitable locations, taking into account their viability and the concerns of local people.”
The minister also reminded MPs that local people stood to benefit from renewable energy developments, as firms paid for “community assets” and efficiency measures to cut energy bills.
But Mr Wilson – who has called for a “fighting fund” to be established to take on the might of E.ON – poured scorn on the annual £460,000 that the company had pledged to hand over.
The MP said the firm was expected to enjoy £570m in revenue over the next 25 years, claiming: “They are taking with one hand and giving us back peanuts with the other.”
Furthermore, a “handful of landowners” would gain a near-identical amount each in rental income, from having the turbines on their land.
Mr Wilson said County Durham already had 165MW of installed capacity of renewable energy – twice the target of 82MW by 2010, set out by the last Labour government, and meeting 55 per cent of household electricity needs across the county.
He added: “If E.ON’s proposal was the only wind farm in County Durham, I could understand cries of nimbyism.
But it isn’t.
“There are already 16 in the county, with one more which has received planning consent but has yet to be built.”
The E.ON application will be decided by Energy Secretary Chris Huhne.
Turbines could be built within a mile of Newton Aycliffe and Chilton, and close to Woodham, Bradbury, Mordon and Preston-le-Skerne, either side of the A1(M) and close to the A167.
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