A crucial decision on a wind turbine development was postponed at the last minute – because a leading preservation group had been left out of the debate.
The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership only discovered by chance late on Tuesday that the controversial Hexham Racecourse turbine was on the town hall agenda the same afternoon.
Northumberland County Council’s planning and environment committee was 90 minutes away from deciding the thorny wind turbine application at its 6pm meeting.
But the AONB, which is normally consulted on sensitive planning matters, had been “omitted” from the consultations.
North Pennines AONB director Chris Woodley-Stewart said: “It was an oversight that we had not been consulted, and we certainly wanted to be able to make a comment on it.
We only heard about this meeting by chance when somebody mentioned it to me on Tuesday afternoon and asked what our thoughts were on the racecourse turbine. We didn’t even know the debate was on. The point we raised was in relation to the potential impact on the AONB.
“We are not saying there is an impact, but we want the members to take into consideration what we think before there is a decision. We will now be taking a look at the application next week before making our submission to the council.”
Mr Woodley-Stewart added: “The AONB is not a statutory consultee, but the council normally sends us certain things; we normally receive something by letter. We need to be sure that the turbine passes policy tests, and that any development affecting the AONB is properly addressed.”
A number of objectors had travelled the 70-mile round journey from Tynedale to Morpeth only to find that their journey was fruitless.
John Barker of Whitfield, who has led objections, said: “It is ridiculous that we have come all this way for nothing. I am not happy at all.”
Even Hexham Racecourse chief executive Charles Enderby was caught out by the late deferral.
He said: “I was actually in my car five miles from Morpeth at 5.30pm when I received a call, and had to turn round and go back. It was very late, and certainly an inconvenience. Obviously, we were disappointed, but now we will just have to go back on June 6 for the next meeting.”
Planning committee chairman Coun Trevor Thorne apologised to people who had made an unnecessary journey and said: “We had a late objection from the North Pennines AONB Partnership. “It is a material consideration. It is something that we omitted when we have been analysing this case. It came in very late on Tuesday afternoon so there wasn’t time to inform people.”