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Wind farm setback after convent find  

Credit:  By Helen Russell, The Northern Echo, www.thenorthernecho.co.uk 18 January 2012 ~~

Proposals for a £12.5m wind farm suffered another setback after an archaeologist discovered the site was formerly occupied by a medieval convent.

Northern Archaeological Associates Limited said a decision on the Windy Bank scheme, near Hamsterley Forest, County Durham, should not be made until an archaeological dig had taken place to establish the significance of the remains.

The company has prepared a report on behalf of the Hamsterley Upper Gaunless Action Group, which is opposing Banks Renewables’ plan for five 115-metre-high turbines.

It is thought the convent’s walls were still visible when they were removed in 1853 and the building was marked on an 1859 Ordnance Survey map of the area.

If the plans were approved, an access track to the wind farm would be constructed across the site where they convent stood.

The archaeological company believes parts of the building could still exist underground and may hold important information about the past.

Director Mary Fraser said: “If the applicant (Banks) refused to undertake a programme of trial trenching in advance of determination, then I would ask that the local planning authority consider whether the application should be refused on the grounds of insufficient information.

“It is understood that the local farmer previously commented that he felt there was definitely something in the area because he could feel the plough tugging when he worked this land.”

A decision on the application has already been delayed while further wildlife surveys are carried out at the site.

Phil Dyke, from Banks Renewables, said it was not unusual to find items of archaeological interest on sites.

He said: “Archaeological investigations that are carried out to specific standards form part of the environmental assessment work that we have been undertaking for the Windy Bank planning application.

“We will continue to work with all relevant bodies to provide any additional information that is required for the assessment of the application that has been submitted.

“We strongly believe that the proposed site for the Windy Bank scheme is a wholly appropriate location for the type of scheme we are putting forward, and are confident that this will be recognised by Durham County Council’s planning committee.”

Source:  By Helen Russell, The Northern Echo, www.thenorthernecho.co.uk 18 January 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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