March 16, 2012

Peter Jackson wind turbine row will not blow over

by Brian Daniel, The Journal, 16 March 2012

A senior Northumberland councillor who denied being involved in plans for a wind turbine on his land was behind an earlier bid to build one nearby, The Journal can reveal.

Peter Jackson, the leader of the Conservative opposition group on Northumberland County Council, caused controversy last year when he said he had no involvement in a scheme for a single turbine on his land near Ponteland.

The councillor initially said he was not aware of the proposal until he received a letter from the company behind it, although later admitted he’d known of it earlier.

Now, The Journal has uncovered information which shows that Coun Jackson oversaw pre-application discussions with the county council over siting a smaller turbine elsewhere on his land in 2010.

The information shows the councillor instructed the same agents involved in the refused application, on plans for a single turbine on his land in June 2010.

George F White carried out pre-application consultation with the council on behalf of “Mr P Jackson (the proposed applicant)” and asked for an environmental impact assessment screening opinion, for a 53-metre turbine at Coun Jackson’s West Cotes farm, close to the East Coldcoats site.

A pre-application fee of £250 was paid. However the proposal did not get as far as the application stage.

Last night Coun Jackson issued a statement saying: “There are no planned or pending applications for planning permission to build wind turbines on farmland owned by me.

“The confidential pre-application report was an initial inquiry made in summer 2010.

“It has not been progressed since that time. It has not and will not result in an application for planning permission.”

Last night, an opponent of last year’s application said the revelation further raised suspicions that Coun Jackson had been involved in that scheme.

A critic of the councillor branded him a “disgrace” and questioned whether he is “fit to remain” on the authority and as leader of the Tory group.

Coun Jackson would only say that there are no planned or pending applications for turbines on his land.

The Journal reported last November how an application had been made to the authority for a 77.9m turbine on land owned by the councillor and wife Val, close to East Coldcoats Farm under the name Green Energy Ponteland Ltd.

At the time, Coun Jackson, a former leader of Castle Morpeth Borough Council, denied being actively involved in the scheme and said the company was “not connected to me at all”.

The councillor, member for Ponteland South with Heddon, refused to say whether he was for or against the scheme, and whether he would allow the turbine to be built if it was given the go-ahead.

People living near the site claimed it was “asking people to stretch their imagination a little” to deny involvement and called for the councillor to clarify his position.

Coun Jackson, who lives at Edge House, Belsay, later admitted to The Journal he had been wrong to say he knew nothing of the application until written by the company.

He admitted he had been contacted by the company’s agent George F White about the possibility of a planning application before it was submitted.

He said he had not been aware of the details or timescale of the planning procedures and denied being the legal applicant for the scheme. Residents later called on him to consider his position and resign.

The application was refused by the council in December, despite officers having recommended it for approval.

Coun Jackson said afterwards he had been “upset about some of the very personal attacks” by objectors.

Last night, David Elliott, Smallburn near Ponteland, who objected to the refused application, said news of the earlier scheme in Coun Jackson’s name further raised residents’ suspicions of his involvement in the refused application.

Campaigner and self employed contractor Kevin Little, who lives at Haltwhistle, said: “If it can be substantiated that Coun Jackson has been far from truthful over this application, a serious question arises as to whether he is fit to remain as a county councillor. In fact his own group might wish to consider whether he is the right leader to lead them in to next year’s elections.

“He could have been a hell of a lot more open.

“Personally I think he’s a disgrace.”

Richard Garland, from George F White who was involved in both schemes, said that under Coun Jackson’s name “was not the proposal that was submitted” and that the councillor was not the legal applicant for the refused bid.

Meanwhile, Green Energy Ponteland last night issued a statement, said not to be on Coun Jackson’s behalf, revealing it will not be appealing December’s refusal.

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