An overwhelming 94 per cent of local residents have voiced their opposition to a proposed wind farm at Middleton Burn, near Belford.
A ballot organised by the newly formed Middleton Burn Action Group found that 250 people were against the scheme, 10 were in favour and seven were undecided.
The exit poll was held at last Thursday’s public exhibition organised by London-based Air Farmers Ltd to discuss its plans for 16 turbines – each 125m high.
Action group member Chris Leyland said: “We were never in any doubt that most people were against this scheme but the level of opposition shows just what a shocker people think it is.”
Protesters were gathered in the entrance foyer of Bell View Resource Centre to put their views across and displayed a huge painting by local artist Lizzie McCorquodale which aimed to demonstrate the size of the turbines when looking out to the Northumbrian coastline.
Mr Leyland said: “These turbines are of a scale that we just don’t understand around here and they will dominate the views for miles around.
“It’s scandalous that someone can come up from London and potentially wreck the landscape and the property value of anyone unfortunate enough to live near these turbines.”
Mr Leyland, who lives at Greymare Farm – around 900m from the proposed site of the wind farm – also expressed concern at the divide it had caused in the community.
Fellow protester Martin Straker said: “The so-called ‘exhibition’ was really just a PR exercise, many people were very critical of the selective and misleading information they used.
“Nearly everybody we talked to commented on the way that impacts on the heritage coast, and Holy Island in particular, were downplayed.”
Objectors are particularly concerned about its proximity 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.
Catherine Armstrong of Detchant-based Sunny Hill Eggs said: “We’re dead against it. It’s the wrong type of energy and it’s definitely the wrong place.”
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.
It says its 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.
They also showed that the proposed 125m turbines are significantly smaller than the 161m tall Chatton telecommunications mast.
Jens Rasmussen, a director of Middleton Burn Ltd, said: “It’s very difficult to have wind turbines without visual impact but we feel comfortable with the proposal.
“It’s a good project and size, it will meet the regulations and it’s a site that has less visual impact on neighbours than most projects you will find in the UK.
“This is an opportunity for us to consult with local people and get their feedback before moving on to discussions with lots of other bodies.
“We’ve proposed 16 turbines at the moment because we feel that’s the optimum number for the site but we will obviously listen to what people have to say. It’s premature to make any comments on any changes to the proposal until we sit down and look at the feedback.”
A scoping study has already been submitted to Northumberland County Council but the developers refused to say when a planning application will follow. However, they hoped it would be determined some time in 2012.
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 but Mr Rasmussen insisted cumulative impact had been taken into account.
The developers say they have identified all the high-level development constraints, such as statutory designations, aviation, ecological, grid connection, residential amenity and visual impact which led them to the conclusion that Middleton Burn is one of the most suitable and appropriate sites in the region.
Former Belford councillor Audrey Atkin said: “I’m right behind the project. These turbines are not ugly and they’re not going to ruin the landscape. One thing for certain is that if we don’t do a little bit everywhere we can, there will be significant environmental changes.”
Visitors to the exhibition were able to see how a proposed community fund of at least £48,000 per year – £1.2m over the 25-year term of the project – might be spent.
Ideas included high street regeneration, a new tourist information centre in the old Barclays Bank building, a bike hire shop, rent free incentives for opening new shops, the cleaning and repair of the village well and new street furniture.
They said there was also potential for new tourist attractions, including a heritage and sculpture trail incorporating a huge new feature. ‘The Singing Man’ would be similar to ‘The Singing Ringing Tree’ at Burnley which the developers say would help ‘to put Belford on the map’.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding