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Call for urgent public debate on windfarms

A motion which aimed to slow down the number of windfarm applications approved in Northumberland has been dismissed.

Conservative councillor Glen Sanderson, who represents Chevington with Longhorsley, called on the county’s unitary council to ‘urgently’ engage in consultation with as many residents as possible to help formulate a new countywide policy on renewable energy.

But the motion, at a full meeting of Northumberland County Council last week, was rejected by most Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors by 33 votes to 16 after a new proposal was put forward by Coun Tom Brechany.

Coun Sanderson said that the number of windfarm applications which have already been approved and are going through planning procedures are enough to meet the county’s renewables target for 2020.

He added that many felt the county would be justified in calling for a moratorium on approvals, but knew this was not legally possible.

However Coun Brechany’s motion said that the administration would consult the public on the renewable energy policy as part of its official work in the Local Development Framework (LDF), which is already under way.

And that was given the go-ahead.

After the meeting, Coun Sanderson said that adding it in to the LDF is kicking it into the long grass.

He said: “I am pleased that so many individuals and organisations contacted me to support our call for an urgent review of this crucial issue.

“The Conservative motion was about recognising the immediate need to review the council’s outdated policies on accepting wind turbines. We will go on fighting for a fair and thorough hearing for residents.

“The amended motion passed by the Lib Dems kicks this issue into the long grass by wrapping it up in the Local Development Framework review, which has already taken four years and shows no signs of completion.”

He added: “By the time the council bureaucracy has gone through its gears, we may find that the face of the Northumberland countryside is unrecognisable.”

Supporting Coun Sanderson’s motion, Coun Steven Bridgett said: “It is not until you have a windfarm application in your community that you start to look at all the facts about windfarms.

“There have been six applications in my division and it is very difficult when communities feel that they are not listened to.

“We might not be able to have a moratorium, but we can look at other policies which might be able to help them.”

He added that it shouldn’t be a political decision.

“We should have cross-party unity on this,” he said.

At the meeting Executive Member for Corporate Resources Andrew Tebbutt said: “Anything other than going through the LDF process will not be sustainable.

“We have to deliver the right thing in the end.”

Coun Tebbutt said that if consultation was not made through the LDF process the council could be liable to numerous judicial reviews which would cost the council, and ultimately taxpayers.

Council Leader Jeff Reid later added: “Last week the Conservatives voted against a Lib Dem proposal to give local people a bigger say in the council’s windfarm policy.

“They have tried to politicise a matter that concerns us all and their motion to Northumberland County Council, if approved, could have cost the council millions of pounds in legal challenges.

“Unlike the Conservatives, the Lib Dems in Northumberland want to give local people a say in where windfarms are built in our county.”