A plan to build a £12.5m wind farm in a picturesque part of County Durham has received a huge setback.
The plan to build five 115-metre turbines between the village of Woodland and Hamsterley Forest – close to the home of TV botanist David Bellamy – is facing significant planning problems that could lead to delays of up to a year – or outright rejection.
Council planners have informed developers Banks Renewables that unless more work is done to assess the impact on birds and bats, the plan is likely to be recommended for refusal.
Banks submitted its Windy Bank application back in August.
But the company now faces 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 and Upper Gaunless Action Group (HUGAG) and by other opponents of the wind farm.
Woodland parish councillor Alistair Rutter said: “Nobody wants these huge turbines despoiling an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
“Nine parish councils have lodged formal objections, wildlife groups and conservation groups are opposed to the application.
“We believe that building these turbines next to Hamsterley Forest is a step too far and would urge Banks to now reconsider. If the company takes any account at all of public opinion and strength of feeling then it will drop this plan now.”
Durham County Council’s advice to Banks that its survey work is not good enough follows representations from Natural England, the RSPB, and from Terry Coult who is an ecologist for the council.
He said the bat and barn owl 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 250 letters sent to the council against the proposal and one in favour. Nine 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.
Nobody wants these huge turbines despoiling an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty