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County delays decision on wind turbine

A turbine scheme for land owned by the county council’s Conservative Group Leader was dropped from this week’s planning committee after objectors complained of too little time to respond.

The turbine, which would be 77.9m or 256ft to the tip, is proposed for wildlife-rich green belt land on Coun Peter Jackson’s East Coldcoats Farm near Ponteland.

The planning application from an agent was due to be determined on Tuesday evening at County Hall, but the council withdrew it from the agenda, citing “procedural reasons”.

A report by a planning officer had recommended granting permission. It will now be considered next month.

Coun Jackson, of Belsay, has denied any link with the application, made by agent George F White on behalf of a Berwick-registered company called Green Energy Ponteland. He said he had known nothing of it until notified of the application.

A former leader of Castle Morpeth Borough Council, Coun Jackson said he wanted the planning process to take its course without influence from him.

Objectors said letters from the council had been received seven or eight days after the printed date, cutting into their time to respond.

Committee Chairman Trevor Thorne said that was the reason the council had delayed a decision.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “We have pulled it because we have had complaints from members of the public that they haven’t had sufficient time to consider it.”

Objectors had been notified of the delay.

It is said the 500KW turbine would provide power for the 200-acre farm.

The county ecologist and Natural England raised no objections, but Northumberland Wildlife Trust warned of nearby populations of bats, which can be killed by collisions with turbines and by low air pressure near the blades.

The Council to Protect Rural England and Ponteland Parish Council also objected.

An objector referred to Northumberland having already exceeded its quota of turbines and said the structure would overpower the area.

Local people expressed fears about oil from the turbine reaching Coldcoats Burn, 90m away, and disturbance of wildlife including otters, water voles, kingfishers, barn owls, ground-nesting birds and numerous bats. The burn is said to contain freshwater clams, a sign of high water quality.

Senior planning officer Joe Nugent reported: “The key function of the green belt within the area of the proposed wind turbine is to prevent the merging of Newcastle upon Tyne with Ponteland. In this respect it is considered that the proposed development would not have a significant impact on the openness or function of the green belt.”