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Frustration as mast plan gets go-ahead

A bid for a 50metre meterological mast has scraped through the planning process, but there are doubts about whether the scheme will go ahead.

Northumberland County Council’s planning and environment committee voted by five votes to four to grant consent for the structure near Lemmington Hall. But members heard from Edlingham Parish Council chairman Chris Blythe that the landowner had refused permission to erect it on his land.

Coun Blythe, who also raised objections on the grounds of highway, landscape and tourism impact, said: “The most frustrating issue is that the landowner has categorically stated that he does not want the applicant to build this mast on his land and he will not allow access to his land. The other landowners have also said they disagree with this application.”

Some councillors said it was ‘ludicrous’ that they had to consider the application in the circumstances, but they were advised by officers that land ownership issues are not part of the planning process.

The proposal was for a met mast to be sited on land north of Lemmington Hall, next to the Bank Top junction, for up to 12 months to gather data on the suitability of the site for wind power.

Ten letters of objection were submitted, voicing concerns about the impact on the landscape, tourism, the highway, cultural heritage and ecology. But planning officers recommended approval.

They said the site is in an area of high sensitivity and the mast would be visible from the highway, but due to its narrow shape and appearance it would be unobtrusive and screened by trees and the landscape.

Highways officers, the county ecologist and archaeologist all raised no objections, and planners said it was unlikely that there would be a significant impact on tourism businesses.

But Coun Paul Kelly said: “Corby’s Crags is a place that I’m acquainted with having climbed there many a time and one of the joys of going up there is the scenery that lies before you – it is a place of beauty. I feel that if an application for a met mast is going to impact on a particularly beautiful or sensitive landscape then we ought to consider refusing it on those grounds.”

Coun Kelly also objected to the scheme over the potential impact on bats, but he was told that it would not stand up on appeal.

Coun John Taylor said he was disgusted with the standard of the application and echoed Coun Kelly’s comments.

“Corby’s Crags is one of the significant view points of that area. I find this application disgraceful. I have never seen such an ill-considered and ill-presented application and I think we should turn it out,” he said.

He also objected to a discussion before the application was debated in which chief planning officer Karen Ledger advised that met mast proposals would only normally be refused in special circumstances where there would be a significant impact.

Coun Taylor said: “In my view this is prejudicial. This should have been dealt with after the application had been dealt with. I feel it is very unfair, the tone of it, and I must protest most strongly at this.”