An energy firm is being accused of trying to shortcircuit the planning process after unveiling plans for a controversial 24-turbine wind farm.
E.ON has proposed two clusters of seven and 17 turbines more than a mile apart east of Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, known as the Isles.
The firm said its preferred layout was drawn up in consultation with the community and was a reduction from the original plan for a wind farm with 45 turbines.
However, Phil Wilson, MP for Sedgefield, said by classing the two clusters as one wind farm, the firm was trying to avoid having the matter dealt with by the local planning authority.
He said: “This is a completely cynical move by E.ON.
“These look to me like two separate wind farms which are more than a mile apart and have a combined output of 64MW.
“This will ensure the planning application is heard by the Secretary of State for the Environment at a national level.
“If the output was less than 50MW, as each separate wind farm’s output is, then the applications would be heard by the local, elected planning authority at Durham County Council.
“I think E.ON believes it has a better chance of getting approval at a national level than if the application was heard locally.”
The second stage of its consultation process runs from July 5 to September 9, but under the current plan the firm would award £190,000 a year for community projects.
E.ON says the wind farm could produce enough energy to power 35,000 homes A spokeswoman said: “The revised Isles proposal is for a 63.5MW, 24-turbine, single scheme which would be centrally dispatched, controlled, operated and maintained.
“It has been deliberately designed to appear in the landscape as two groups of wind turbines, as this was the preferred design of statutory and community consultees, and also takes into account the views of Durham County Council planning officials.”
Paul Hunt, project manager at E.ON, said the proposed layout takes into consideration comments that were received during the first stage of consultation, last year.
He said: “We’re investing heavily in the region and believe this is a good site for a wind farm.
“Stage two consultation provides another opportunity for the local community to have their say.”
To comment on the proposal, visit eon-uk.com/theisles or call 0800-096-1199.