Plans to build 16 giant turbines, each 125 metres high, just north of Belford have provoked an angry response from local residents.
London-based Air Farmers Ltd has prepared a scoping report on proposals to build the wind farm on farmland at Middleton Burn, Swinhoe. However, the site lies close to the historically significant St Cuthbert’s Cave and the Holburn Moss peat bog and nature reserve, as well as the popular St Cuthbert’s Way and St Oswald’s Way long distance walking routes.
Georgina Leyland of Greymare Farm, which overlooks the proposed development site, is “sickened” by the news.
“I expect they will not have forecast the massive objection that is undoubtedly about to be launched,” she said. “Shame on them and shame on the farmer who has fallen prey to the offer of huge annual payments for having these monsters march along his land causing unacceptable impacts for miles around.
“This stunning landscape will be permanently scarred and the damage done by dividing the local community is incalculable.”
The Middleton Burn site is located between planned wind farms at Middlemoor, near North Charlton and Wandylaw, near Ellingham and Barmoor, near Lowick, which between them have permission for 34 turbines.
Windbyte, which tracks wind farm development in north Northumberland and the Borders, said the scheme raised serious issues of cumulative impact when taken with the wind farms approved elsewhere.
“This proposal is an absolute shocker,” said a Windbyte spokesman. “It would be hard to find a worse site in Northumberland in terms of the likely impacts on internationally important nature reserves, heritage sites and tourist landscapes, trails and businesses.
“Had this scheme been proposed in the Scottish Borders, the planners would have told the company in no uncertain terms that their scheme breached planning guidelines and had no chance of being recommended for approval.”
However, Middleton Burn Ltd, which is preparing the scheme for Air Farmers, insists the electricity produced by the wind farm would outweigh any local impacts.
Project manager Bob Morgan, in a letter to local residents, states: “Our current proposals would generate sufficient clean, renewable electricity to satisfy the equivalent annual energy needs of up to 33,000 north east region households, offsetting up to 54,600 tonnes of CO2 per annum. We believe the benefits of generating electricity from a free, self-replenishing and non-polluting natural resource will outweigh any local impacts of the proposed wind farm.”
The company says it intends to provide a community fund of at least £48,000 per year, which over the 25-year term of the project would provide at least £1.2m for use by the local community. The proposed project would also generate at least £110,000 annually in business rates.
Air Farmers (Middleton Burn Ltd) is a group of individuals committed to the expansion of wind energy in order to help transform the UK into a low-carbon economy that becomes less dependent upon unstable regions of the world for its energy supplies.
Mr Morgan added: “The UK government has set a target of 20 per cent of the UK’s electricity from indigenous renewable energy sources by 2020. Middleton Burn Ltd is committed to playing our role towards achieving this goal.
“The UK has Europe’s best wind resource and the north east region is one of the best wind resource areas in England.”
He states the firm has taken into account government, national, regional and local policies and wind farm development technical guidelines. “We have undertaken studies to identify all the high-level development constraints, such as statutory designations, aviation, ecological, grid connection, residential amenity and visual impact,” said Mr Morgan.
“From this work we have concluded that the Middleton Burn site is one of the most suitable and appropriate sites within the north east region for development as a wind farm.”
The ecological scoping report prepared by Atmos Consulting on behalf of the developers states that there are records of a range of species and habitats of conservation interest within the site. These include otter, red squirrel, bats, badgers, nightjar and goshawk.
However, the report goes on to state the proposed turbines are located within grazed grassland or arable farmland which has limited botanical interest. It recommends that a wind farm would have to be designed sensitively around the ecological constraints present.
An environmental report by the Pegasus Planning Group reveals that the site lies 500m from the Colour Heugh and Bowden Doors Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and adjacent to the Holburn Lake and Moss SSSI. It is also 6km from the Lindisfarne Nature Reserve.
A public exhibition outlining the proposals is being held on Thursday, September 29 at Bell View Resource Centre, 33 West Street, Belford, from noon to 8pm. There will be an opportunity to ask questions and give your feedback and suggestions.