A green energy company has lodged a formal bid to build giant wind turbines in an area previously dug up by opencast mining and used as a burial site for slaughtered farm animals.
Infinis has applied to Northumberland County Council for permission to erect four turbines – each 126 metres tall – on land close to the neighbouring villages of Widdrington and Widdrington Station, near Morpeth.
They would stand on the restored former Sisters opencast coal mine, and close to the site of a mass grave where tens of thousands of slaughtered animals were buried during the 2001 foot and mouth crisis.
The wind farm scheme was unveiled in March last year to a hostile reception from many local residents, and the Infinis planning application follows extensive public consultations by the company, including exhibitions and the establishment of a community liaison group.
The plans have been scaled down from the original five, 140 metre-high turbines as a result of feedback from locals, and Infinis has promised that, if it is given the green light, a community fund will be set up to support local projects and initiatives.
Widdrington Parish Council has already opposed the scheme, and yesterday Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council chairman, Joe Sennett, predicted objections from the majority of local villagers.
He said: “We did a survey of parishioners about this last year and the vast majority of responses we got back were negative. What with opencast mining and then the foot and mouth business, a lot of people feel this is just a dumping ground, and don’t want any more.
“What also gets people about wind turbines is that they are massive but just aren’t efficient, and wouldn’t be here but for Government subsidies. As far as our council is concerned, we have been told by the public to say no this application.”
Infinis recently took a group of 20 local people to view the two wind turbines built at the Merck Sharp and Dohme pharmaceutical plant in Cramlington, which are the same height as those planned at Widdrington.
Yesterday Infinis project manager, Ben Ridder, said: “Over the past 18 months the wind farm proposal has attracted a variety of opinions, and by taking into account the feedback from the consultation process, together with our environmental surveys, the design for the Sisters Wind Farm has evolved.
“As part of the consultation process we asked local residents if they would like to visit an operational wind farm, and 20 joined our team on the visit to MSD. It provided a great opportunity to experience the potential impact of our site. Mark Pye, project manager for the MSD turbines, gave us a guided tour of the site and answered many questions about living and working close to turbines.”
Widdrington Station resident Richard Lillico, who was on the visit, said: “We found it very interesting and were surprised how quiet the turbines really are. You can hold a conversation underneath them without raising your voice.”
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