Campaigners fighting the rising tide of wind farm schemes in Northumberland yesterday welcomed decisions by council planners to throw out two separate bids to build turbines in the countryside.
The move was hailed as a potential “turning point” in the battle to protect the county’s moorlands and open spaces against a feared proliferation of large, single turbines.
On Tuesday county councillors refused permission for two 77.9m-high turbines, one on green belt farmland near Ponteland and the other at New Bewick near Eglingham.
Planning officers recommended approval, but the council’s planning and environment committee turned them down because of concerns over their impact on the green belt, the local landscape and people’s homes and views.
Both applications were opposed by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, with the Ponteland bid sparking 47 letters of objection from locals and the New Bewick scheme 96.
Both were submitted by land agents George F White, on behalf of applicants Green Energy Ponteland Ltd and Harehope Estate owner John Wrangham.
Yesterday Andrew Joicey, part of the pressure group Save Northumberland’s Environment (SANE), which opposed the New Bewick turbine, said he felt the decision could be a “slight turning point” in the scramble for more wind energy in the county.
“I believe George F White will have to realise these proposals for single, large turbines are just completely inappropriate, and it is time they stopped leading landowners by the nose to try to get planning permission. There was virtually no support for either of these applications, and I think there is an underlying realisation that the whole of the wind farm movement is a big financial scam led by an extraordinarily generous subsidy system.
“I also feel there is a realisation among county councillors that some aspects of Northumberland are very important, including tourism and its link to landscape. These turbines are a blot on the landscape and a proliferation of them, which has already happened over the border in Scotland, is a real problem.
“The county council is beginning to realise that now is the chance to stop Northumberland being proliferated by these things. I think the applicants would be very, very foolish to appeal, given the circumstances, and I hope they will retire gracefully, having learned a lesson.”
Richard Garland, a partner with George F White and head of its planning team for Northumberland, said: “It is disappointing that the committee went against the officers’ recommendations, and we will now need to review the decisions with the applicants and take a view from there on how to proceed.
“We are not leading anyone by the nose. All we are doing is responding to Government direction that we need more renewable power.
“The reason it is now coming down to individual landowners as well as wind farms is that this is exactly what the Government wants them to do. That is what the feed-in tariffs are designed for.”
The Ponteland turbine was proposed on land at East Coldcoats Farm owned by Coun Peter Jackson, leader of the opposition Conservative group on the county council. He has insisted he is not the applicant behind the scheme.
Yesterday he said: “The committee decision has totally vindicated my decision not to be involved in the planning process in any way. I have not, and will not, express an opinion either for or against because I didn’t think it was proper to do so. I am also upset by the very personal attacks made on me by some of the objectors, when their comments should have been directed at the potential impacts of the wind turbine itself and the detail of the planning application.”