A call for emergency action aimed at slowing down the rate of wind farm approvals in Northumberland was rejected by county councillors last night.
A formal motion by Conservative councillor Glen Sanderson called on the county council to launch “urgent” and wide-ranging public consultations aimed at drawing up a county-wide policy on renewable energy.
Coun Sanderson said many local people thought Northumberland was contributing more than its fair share to the national drive to generate energy from wind power, and many felt that a moratorium on further approvals for wind turbines would be justified.
Last night his call for a specific public consultation exercise and policy review on wind energy was rejected by 33 votes to 16 at a full meeting of the authority in Morpeth.
Instead, councillors backed an alternative motion by the Lib Dem administration that public consultation on renewable energy police should be done through the official Local Development Framework (LDF) process.
The council’s deputy leader, Andrew Tebbutt, said drawing up a county-wide policy through the LDF consultation process might take more time, but it was the safer option. He said: “Anything other than doing this through our LDF process risks coming up with a policy that is not sustainable.”
He said the Government’s new national planning policy framework made it clear that developments – including wind farms – should be approved unless there were very strong reasons not to.
“If we take the wrong stance on this we could face dozens, if not hundreds, of judicial reviews because we have taken a decision that is not sustainable in law,’’ he added.
Coun Sanderson said there was an urgent need for the council to review and update old planning policies on wind energy inherited from the six district councils.
“We need to listen to the frustration and concerns of our residents on this issue,” he said. “Some people feel Northumberland has become an easy target for developers.
“I can’t legally call for a moratorium on further approvals, but we do urgently need a single policy to give people more of a say.”
Northumberland currently has 27 operational turbines – but almost 100 more have been given planning approval and are not yet built, with many others in the planning system or under site investigation.