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Sir Alan Beith hears Northumberland wind farm campaigners’ concerns

Growing concerns over the number of wind farms being approved in Northumberland have been expressed to a local MP – amid claims that the county is in danger of becoming a “turbine landscape”.

Campaigners fighting plans to build giant turbines near Morpeth met Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith at the weekend, to press for his support for Government action to slow down the expansion of the onshore wind industry.

It emerged a week ago that more than 100 Conservative MPs have written to David Cameron to demand cuts in the £400m-a-year subsidies paid to the industry.

Also this week, Lib Dem county councillor Dougie Watkin claimed Northumberland is at risk of becoming a turbine landscape, with impacts on long-distance views enjoyed by visitors and locals.

There is concern that although Northumberland only has around 30 operational turbines, scores more have been given planning consent and there are many others in the pipeline.

On Saturday Sir Alan met campaigners in the hamlet of Fenrother, who are fighting plans by EnergieKontor to build five turbines – each 126 metres high – on nearby farmland.

Hundreds of people have signed up to support the campaign, which is being led by Dr James Lunn, who lives in Fenrother with his wife Emma and baby daughter Imogen.

Dr Lunn said locals were disappointed that their MP seemed unwilling to take sides in the wind farm debate.

He said: “We were quite surprised that Sir Alan said there is no greater pressure on Northumberland than other areas of the country, because that doesn’t tally with statistics we have from the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

“He says our installed capacity here is low, but we find it horrifying that such a large burden is soon going to be imposed on Northumberland from turbines which have been consented but not yet built.

“We also felt it was a shame that he will not oppose individual applications, even though he admits he has had many letters and concerns about wind farms.

“He did ask for more information about our figures, and we hope that he will start knocking on the door of the new secretary of state, Ed Davey.

“We need both a national and Northumberland policy to protect settlements, because we can’t rely on the county council planning department to protect us.

“They seem to believe there is no upper limit for the number of wind farms that can be considered.”

Sir Alan said he was aware from talking to other MPs at Westminster that Northumberland was “not unique” in facing a lot of wind farm applications, and the county council needed to draw up its own policy on the issue.

“Northumberland needs a policy that is proportional and recognises the landscape issues involved when considering turbines,” he said. “It needs to develop a policy framework because we are getting so many applications. I don’t take a view on individual applications, but I am happy to talk to groups like the one at Fenrother and advise them.

“I believe wind has a part to play in our energy needs, but in a county as attractive as ours it has to be handled carefully. We actually have a relatively small number of wind farms built, but quite a lot more have been consented.

“The county council must assume these are going to be built, and take that cumulative effect into account when considering new applications.”

Sir Alan’s comments come a week after Hexham Tory MP Guy Opperman called on the council to produce a wind farm policy that will clarify its future strategy. Mr Opperman said the issue is dividing communities, and needs to be looked at closely on a national and local basis.

We find it horrifying that such a large burden is soon going to be imposed on Northumberland