A picturesque village is united in its opposition to plans for a windfarm on its boundary.
More than 70 residents of Elsdon turned out for a public meeting in the village hall last week to hear about Air Farmers Ltd’s plans for nine 125metre-high turbines on land just outside the village.
And despite an invitation to speak at the meeting, the developers, Middle Hill Renewables, a subsidiary company of Air Farmers, did not attend.
Instead they sent a letter saying that they had already held a public exhibition when detailed information about the project was displayed.
They have been consulting various bodies, organisations and neighbours to start an environmental impact assessment of the site.
However, they added that there had been mis-information about the plans and that 15 minutes was not long enough for the company to summarise as it was a complex project.
Another public exhibition will be held by the developers when there is more information, they said.
But anti-windfarm campaigners Andrew Joicey and Don Brownlow said that the application should be refused.
Mr Brownlow said: “Middle Hill is a scandalously bad proposal in a singularly inappropriate location.”
He added that villagers and interested parties need to focus on ‘winning the Middle Hill battle’ to stop further applications coming in.
Mr Joicey, a landowner and farmer at New Etal, said that while developers and landowners are set to reap the rewards from a windfarm development, the community will gain very little.
“I became starkly aware of the colossal financial opportunities that exist for those who invest in windfarms in this country,” he said.
“These have arisen thanks to a flawed renewable energy subsidy system. This has turned into a financial scam and an environmental disaster on a scale which it is difficult for the ordinary person to comprehend.
“There is a need for individual action groups, but also for co-operation rather than conflict between groups to fight applications in the northern cluster.”
Mr Joicey added that wind turbines are ‘no substitute for conventional manageable electricity generation’.
He added: “Developers will try so unbelievably hard to get planning permission, wherever they can find a compliant landowner, and why they will try every trick in the book to deceive the public, exaggerating benefits and down-playing adverse impacts.”
Dr John Wollaston, the owner of Elsdon Tower, was unable to attend the meeting but wrote a letter which was read out.
In it he said: “The proposed Middle Hill development is immediately adjacent to the Northumberland National Park, it would seriously interfere with some of the finest views in Northumberland and, therefore, England and it would dominate the historic village of Elsdon with its two Grade I-listed buildings – the church and the town – its scheduled ancient monument – the motte and bailey, one of the best preserved examples of this Norman structure in the country, Winter’s Gibbet, Grade II-listed, and the area which witnessed the initial phases of the Battle of Otterburn.
“In my opinion the speculators’ proposals violate the Government’s own policy and guidance in relation to sustainable development, land and aesthetic value of the scenery, the historic buildings.
“The history vested in the setting is our heritage, it belongs to all of us, not the fortunate landowner who has discovered an easy and lucrative solution to a piece of relatively low-value upland.
“A row of turbines set across our southern horizon would seriously compromise the setting of Elsdon which has changed little over the last millenium. And the height of the turbines and their movement would compete visually with its listed buildings, its ancient monument and the significant historical events that have taken place in the area. ‘Northumberland, John, pure Northumberland’, to quote the late Sir John Riddell, Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland when he visited me 10 years ago and I would regard it as an act of vandalism to industrialise it and destroy another part of this country’s irreplaceable heritage.”
Chairman of the Northumberland National Park Authority, John Riddle, said that there shouldn’t be windfarms in the park boundary.
He added: “There is a great threat of a nucleus effect around the perimeter, and there is no chance of having buffer zones.”
The meeting also heard that there is a spring underneath the Middle Hill site which provides water to surrounding properties.
A short film about the impact of windfarms was also shown and residents asked what they can do now to fight the proposals before an application is submitted.
They were told to lobby councillors and MPs and the Middle Hill Action Group was formally set up and constituted to deal with the application at all stages.
Three officers were elected – chairman Steve Foti, vice-chairman John Tait and secretary Nicola Tait.
An open ballot also took place with 67 out of 69 people voting against the plans. Three abstained.
Future meetings of the action group are to take place to discuss the proposals. For more information visit www.middlehillactiongroup.com
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