A plan to build a £12.5million wind farm in Teesdale is either facing refusal or significant planning delays.
Banks Renewables, which has submitted plans for five 115-metre turbines between village of Woodland and Hamsterley Forest, has been told that its survey work on wildlife is not up to scratch.
It is believed Grant Folley, a council planning officer, has now informed Banks that unless more work is done on the impact on birds and bats, the plan will be recommended for refusal.
Banks face either initiating another year of survey work and then re-submitting the proposal – or having their project turned down.
The news has been welcomed by protest group Hamsterley & Upper Gaunless Action Group (HUGAG), whose members claim the wind farm will destroy the landscape and wildlife.
A spokesman said: “Banks could now withdraw, on grounds that the ecological issues have proved so significant that backing off is the only appropriate response – one that would, at least, serve to enhance their reputation as a ‘development with care’ company.
“Or the firm could decide to press ahead regardless, without commissioning more survey work, in which case they would have to assume that Mr Folley would still recommend refusal. In this instance they would presumably still hope to win at appeal.”
Durham County Council’s advice to Banks that its survey work is not good enough follows a report by Terry Coult, who is an ecologist for the council.
He said the bat and barn survey was “not fit for purpose”, adding that it must be done again next year.
He also raised fears about the impact on birdlife.
“My own understanding of the survey results is that these turbines will have such a significant adverse effect as to make the application untenable,” he said.
At a recent count, there have been more than 240 letters sent to the council against the proposal and one in favour. Eight parish councils have all called for the wind farm plan to be rejected.
In response, Phil Dyke, development director at Banks Renewables, said: “We have worked closely with Natural England, the RSPB and other relevant bodies to ensure that environmental assessment work for the proposed wind farm planning application has been undertaken to agreed standards.
“We will continue to engage with these bodies so that they have the information that they need to enable them to consider the planning application and assessment.”
Mr Dyke said the wind farm would bring jobs for construction firms and a fund that would provide £625,000 of support for local community groups, environmental and voluntary projects during the wind farm’s 25-year lifespan.
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