May 2, 2012

Six years and out for met mast

The Berwick Advertiser, 2 May 2012

A met mast which has been gathering data for a potential wind farm at Bewick Moor, near Chillingham, for the past six years will have to be dismantled after an application for a further extension was refused.

Newport-based Per Acciona Energy had requested an extension from Northumberland County Council’s planning and environment committee for a further six months to collect data.

However, members decided on Tuesday night that the company has had sufficient time to undertake the monitoring and that as the site is now a designated SSSI there is not strong enough justification to retain the mast.

The 47m tall met mast has been installed on land south west of Quarry House, Eglingham – within the Bewick Moor Site of Nature Conservation Importance – since July 2006. The permission for the mast had since been extended through two previous variations to allow an extension of time in 2008 and 2009.

The county’s planning and environment committee was asked to determine the application for a further extension due to the objection of Tillside Parish Council, a statutory consultee.

Per Acciona Energy said they needed to obtain further data of the meteorological conditions at the site so they can complete a noise assessment for a potential wind farm. They said they had been unable to obtain this data before now.

The extension of time application also included the time to dismantle and remove the mast from site – anticipated to be October.

Planning officer Alison Hall, in a report recommending approval, said: “The main issues to be considered when determining this application are the principle of development and the potential impact on visual and residential amenity.

“The anemometer mast is used to gather data to assess the viability of the site for a community owned wind turbine development. The wind characteristic information provided by such masts can be used to calculate the acoustics of a potential wind farm.

“This information helps to inform the predicted noise emissions from the proposed wind farm and the developer would use this information to help select the type of turbine and location based on the potential noise resulting from the operation.”

She explained that the national planning policy framework retains a presumption in favour of renewable energy and this proposal, although not producing renewable energy, provides necessary data to assist in the assessment of viable sites.

She also stressed that this application is for the retention of an anemometer mast only and that any decision to grant a temporary planning permission for the mast would not prejudice any decision that the council may subsequently make in respect of a future application for the erection of wind turbines.

Tillside Parish Council objected to the original proposal for an extension time of 24 months and, as a result, the applicant has reduced it to six months.

Ms Hall said: “It is acknowledged that there have been two previous applications for the retention of the met mast. The applicants have advised that the met mast must be in situ whilst noise measurement devices gather data at the site.

“Negotiations have taken place with the applicant and they have reduced the timescale from 24 months to six months but the parish council remain concerned. The applicants have requested an extension of time to allow sufficient time for acoustic consultants to carry out the required noise monitoring work at the site whilst the met mast is gathering meteorological data.”

The nearest residential property is located 1.1km from the application site to the north east and the landscape is open countryside.

Ms Hall added: “It is considered that whilst the mast is visible and has been on site since 2006, it is required to obtain noise data, and a further six months would not result in an unacceptable detrimental impact on visual or residential amenity.

“The mast is already in situ and it is considered that the retention of the mast for a further six months would not result in any further impact on ecology.”

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