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Turbine plans for top Tory’s land blown apart

Plans to site a huge wind turbine on land owned by leading Conservative councillor Peter Jackson have been shattered by his own Party colleagues.

They led an attack on the proposal for their group leader’s East Coldcoats farm near Ponteland, which was thrown out by nine votes to two at Northumberland County Council’s Planning and Environment Committee on Tuesday.

Planning officers advised approving the application by Berwick firm Green Energy Ponteland, but councillors said it would spoil the green belt.

The turbine, which would be 256ft to the tip and in an area rich in wildlife, was opposed by 43 objectors, many of whom were in the chamber to witness their victory.

Dozens of protesters against a similar scheme at New Bewick, between Alnwick and the Cheviots, were also backed by the committee against officers’ advice.

Councillors were perhaps buoyed by a recent appeal decision upholding their rejection of a wind farm at Kirkharle.

In the New Bewick debate, Coun John Taylor said opposition to some wind energy schemes in the countryside came from all political persuasions.

“It’s a feeling that enough is enough,” he said. “We have got to start and draw the line on this.”

A law going through Parliament will require turbines to be more than 1.5km from houses, but 204 homes to be built at Northumbria Police headquarters will be just 400m from the East Coldcoats site.

However, senior planning officer Joe Nugent told councillors that as it is not yet current law, it is not a material consideration.

Andrew Moss, chartered town planner at Ward Hadaway who represented objectors, asked if green belt was now to be an area of search for wind energy in Northumberland.

He said consent for a house had been turned down in the area because it would harm the green belt, yet such a turbine would cause substantial harm to the landscape and listed buildings that would last a third of a lifetime.

Asked about the role of the green belt, Mr Nugent said it was to separate Ponteland from Newcastle.

“It’s not primarily there to maintain a nice countryside,” he said.

He had discussed with colleagues whether or not the turbine was appropriate in green belt and they had concluded it was in line with national policy and would not have an unacceptable impact.

He said it had not warranted an environmental impact study, contrary to objectors’ views.

Agent for the scheme, Richard Garland, said it was supported in the strongest terms by planning policy and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne had said at the weekend that more turbines were desperately needed.

He said that every aspect of its effect on the area had been given careful consideration in reports by specialists and council officers had proposed 37 conditions on the planning permission.

But ward councillor Richard Dodd said that while the green belt had been tampered with by Newcastle, this was Northumberland’s chance to protect it.

“This is a controversial site. It’s a big issue,” he said.

Fellow Conservative councillor Ian Hutchinson moved refusal, seconded by another Conservative member Wayne Daley.

Coun Hutchinson said the green belt had to be protected and this was industrial development.

Coun Daley believed that with a law change coming, such applications should be suspended.

He urged the applicant not to appeal against refusal, saying it was a disgrace that county councillors were often overruled on appeal when they stood against turbine schemes.

Coun Paul Kelly said he had agonised over the decision and had been persuaded by the scholarly representations on behalf of objectors. He disagreed with planners about the purpose of the green belt.

“It’s there for the preservation of the countryside – not simply to act as a buffer between Ponteland and Newcastle,” he said.

“I do feel that the change in the size of the turbine between the pre-application advice and the planning application has been done cynically by the applicant, believing that it would be passed because Northumberland actually feels compelled to grant renewables applications.”