Four wind turbines will be erected at Widdrington, despite fears they could put a major regeneration scheme in jeopardy.
Plans for the Infinis windfarm at the Sisters site on the edge of Widdrington Village were approved on Tuesday after a last ditch bid to have them deferred by rival developer Peel Energy failed.
Peel says its scheme for 13 turbines will kick off the ambitious Blue Sky Forest sports and leisure project and argued that the Infinis proposal should have been considered alongside its own plans due to the potential for cumulative impact.
But county planners rejected the calls as the Peel application was only submitted last week and has not yet been validated.
Head of Development Services Karen Ledger said: “We try to have a consistent approach and it would be unreasonable not to determine this application, which is so far on in the planning process, because of something that has only recently been submitted. We can’t expect current applicants to have regard to that scheme.”
The Infinis plans will see four turbines, each 126 metres high, built on land west of Widdrington Manse.
The proposal attracted 35 residents’ objections, but Newcastle Airport withdrew its opposition following discussions about measures to avoid impact on its radar system. The MoD maintained its objection, but accepted that its radar concerns could be allayed through planning conditions.
Seventeen letters of support were also submitted.
At the meeting of Northumberland County Council’s Planning and Environment Committee, the objections were led by John Grant, representing Widdrington Village Parish Council.
He said: “Now that the wind turbines at Lynemouth have been constructed it can be seen how imposing they are, both locally along the A1068 and in the surrounding area.
“For the Sisters site in Widdrington they will be within 635 metres of residents. They will have a serious detrimental impact on visual amenity and on visitors to our area.”
He also spoke of concerns regarding noise levels, the future of the Blue Sky Forest scheme and bats.
Coun Shelly Willoughby, representing Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council, said a residents’ survey had found the majority against the plans, adding that the windfarm would be unviable, have a detrimental impact on the coastal route and provide no local jobs.
Annette Lardeur from Peel Energy said: “We support Infinis in its desire to promote and develop renewable energy and we don’t question the cumulative approach, we simply request that whatever decision is taken it is not prejudicial to the Blue Sky Forest application.”
Supporting the application, Jacqueline Bexfield of the Coastal Villages Community Forum hit out at claims that the Infinis scheme would jeopardise Blue Sky Forest and said the forum was fully behind the plans.
“We support the application because of its size, being only four turbines and not being overbearing or an eyesore, the principle of using local contractors where possible, the additional funds being made available for landscaping and the community benefit fund,” she said.
Brenda Fordy-Scott, speaking for the Widdrington Residents’ Association, said she hoped the turbines would be promoted in a distinctive way as an attraction on the coastal route.
And Infinis Project Manager Tim Mockridge said the bid had widespread support.
“It has all the necessary attributes for an excellent windfarm. Wind speeds are high, there is no statutory designation on the site, access is directly off the main road and a simple grid connection can be made,” he said.
Coun Wayne Daley called for a countywide study to be carried out to investigate the effects of windfarms on the tourism economy and he said that if a Private Members Bill becomes law windfarms will not be allowed so near to homes.
However, officers said the Bill is only at the second stage of 11 required.
Coun Dougie Watkin was concerned that the proposal was being considered without regard to the Blue Sky Forest scheme.
And he added: “All the land from east of the A1 will have a windfarm landscape. We got rid of the pit heaps and are going to replace them with windfarms. Forget Coast and Castles, we are going to have a windfarm landscape in this area.
“It is sad, but inevitable.”
However, Coun Paul Kelly moved approval of the plans.
“We have always been aware that it is first come, first served in this system and that cumulative impact has to be assessed once they are on the ground. We can’t best guess what is going to come in the future,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that the Blue Sky Forest scheme is not contemporaneous as an application and it will have to be considered on its own merits later, but this one has been assessed and justified by the officers’ recommendation.”
The plans were approved by 12 votes, with Coun Watkin abstaining.
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