May 31, 2012

Otterburn traders to seek compensation from wind farm group

by Paul Tully, The Journal, May 31 2012, 31 May 2012

Village traders hit by a road closure following a wind turbine transporter crash are set to take legal action to recoup losses running into thousands of pounds.

Trade has been decimated at Otterburn in Northumberland since the A696 was closed following the accident on Monday.

The main road into the village will be closed until tomorrow afternoon.

And traders said yesterday they had already lost between 30% and 50% of business in what should be one of the year’s busiest weeks.

Now they are planning to seek compensation from France-based EDF Renewables, who contracted Scottish hauliers McFadyen to carry the 45-metre turbine segment through Northumberland to the Green Rigg wind farm site near Ridsdale. The traders met with county council officers in the village yesterday to plan their next move.

And Euan Pringle, who runs Otterburn Mill, said: “We will be seeking compensation collectively as a group.

“The trade is 50% down and for me that means several thousand pounds of losses in the first couple of days this week.

“By the end of the week, I would estimate my losses will be around £16,000 or £17,000. It is a disaster and while it may be one of those things, we should not have to bear such losses when it is not our fault.”

Gordon Moore, managing director of the Border Reiver village store, said his early losses had hit 34% and added: “It is worse than the worst day of the snow in January.

“This should be one of the best periods of the year, but my profit has been turned into loss by this.

“I will be looking at a loss of profit of £5,000 to £6,000. Compared to the £1.5m wind farm project, that is mere shrapnel, so they should pay.”

Clive Emerson of The Percy Arms hotel added: “We’ve been losing £500 to £700 a day and this week I’ve been sending staff home.”

Police have insisted the road stays closed until the debris and turbine are removed, an operation that requires 1,000 tonnes of stone to build platforms for two heavy lifting cranes, although Angus Benson of the Otterburn Towers Hotel challenged the need for a full closure.

“I can see no conceivable reason why the road has to remain permanently closed,” he said. “If there’s a will, there’s a way. They need to get this road open as soon as possible.”

The giant transporter – carrying the turbine part delivered from China – had travelled in a slow convoy from Blyth harbour in the early hours of Monday.

It took the A696 following a delegated powers decision to switch from the normal direct A68 route taken at council level just 12 days earlier.

The southern stretch of the A68 was deemed unsuitable because the transporter undercarriage on a trial run had scraped the surface on the notorious switchback road.

But local people claim the A696 is fraught with danger for large vehicles, due to its steep inclines and tight bends.

As the turbine lay in a roadside ditch near Ravenscleugh Farm yesterday, where the transporter came to grief at 6am on Monday, a graffiti artist sprayed on it: “Northumberland says no to wind.”

Northumberland County Council network manager Dick Phillips said it was not possible to override the police order to permanently close the A696 until recovery was complete. “We don’t want to keep reopening and closing the road because that is a recipe for confusion,” he said.

“I thought it was going to be a lot easier recovery than what it is and when they said they needed 1,000 tonnes of stone, I was shocked.

“But the road will reopen by 4pm on Friday, come what may.” It seems the turbine convoy was not accompanied by a police escort, which might have ensured that the transporter was in the middle of the carriageway.

It is beleved the lorry’s wheels clipped the road edge, the vehicle toppled and then came to rest in the ditch.

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