Controversial plans for a wind farm on land in Northumberland owned by a southern-based Tory MP have been thrown out.
Four 125-metre turbines proposed for Kirkharle in mid-Northumberland raised a storm of protest – and accusations of hypocrisy against landowner and former Northumberland county councillor Neil Carmichael, now an MP in Stroud, Gloucestershire, who has opposed a similar application in his constituency.
But Government Appeals Inspector David Rose has now come down against the plans from RWE npower Renewables.
Mr Rose says the damage to the heritage and picturesque landscape of the village of Great Bavington would be unacceptable.
Last night Bavington Parish Council chairman Peter Ramsden greeted the news with delight.
“We are very pleased with the outcome and it is a big relief for the local people,” he said. “I don’t think anybody could criticise what is a balanced and fair judgment by the inspector.
“Some of the objections were very difficult to dispute and this judgment reaffirms the planning process and reassures us that it is not a free-for-all for wind farms in Northumberland.”
Original 2008 proposals for eight turbines were pared down to four on land east of Bavington Hill Head Farm and west of Northside Farm.
But Northumberland County Council turned down the application last year.
RWE npower appealed on the basis that the authority had not affirmed its decision within the statutory 16 weeks.
However, the county council claimed npower’s environmental statement was “seriously deficient” and had not addressed the request for further information made by the former Tynedale Council in March 2009.
The company argued Northumberland had to meet increasing Government green-energy targets by 2020 but while Mr Rose conceded there would be “a very significant challenge” in meeting those targets, he said the harm to the Kirkharle area would outweigh any advantages.
Other wind farm applications in the region added to the overall effect and Mr Rose said: “In my opinion, the aggregated harm to the landscape, the damage to the living conditions of one dwelling, and the significant negative impacts on the setting of designated heritage assets tip the balance against the project.”
The inspector added: “There remains the utmost urgency, nationally and locally in Northumberland, to tap the resource of wind where it can be harvested.”
But planning policy criteria on landscape, residential amenity and cultural heritage, he said, “would be breached in this case”.
The battle went to a two-week public inquiry at Hexham in August with objections from a number of bodies including Newcastle Airport, which voiced concern over possible radar interference from the turbines.
Northumberland County Council head of development services, Karen Ledger, last night said that the council welcomed the inspector’s decision to refuse planning permission.