August 30, 2012

Concerns over safety of Fenrother wind farm after mast collapses

by Brian Daniel, The Journal | Aug 30 2012 |

A controversial wind monitoring mast in the Northumberland countryside has fallen down, sparking concerns among local residents.

The mast at Fenrother, near Morpeth, came crashing down on Monday night after apparently beginning to buckle on Sunday.

The developer who erected the mast says it came down in “high winds”.

However, people who were opposed to its installation claim there was little wind when the mast failed.

They argue the developer can not be trusted to put up massive wind turbines if it can not put up a mast which does not fail.

Residents and a councillor have voiced health and safety concerns following the collapse of the mast close to a public footpath.

Opponents said they had raised their concerns with Northumberland County Council before the mast was put up and say they will be asking the authority not to allow it to be reinstated.

The developer, however, says it plans to re-erect the mast in “the very near future”. The council has said it will be contacting the developer to find out what triggered the collapse and to “determine any implications.”

Company EnergieKontor applied to the council for permission for the mast on land east of Moor Edge Cottage at Fenrother Lane.

The company is seeking to put up five 126m turbines on nearby farmland.

Local people objected, but the authority’s North Area planning committee gave planning permission in March.

However, the mast was seen to be buckling on Monday and fell that night.

The county councillor who covers Fenrother, Glen Sanderson, said the mast had come down beside a footpath and could have hit a passer-by.

He said: “It is obviously a considerable concern to local people, who have contacted me about this in terms of the safety element apart from anything else.

“The health and safety issues are something that need to be looked at carefully.”

Dr James Lunn, an opponent of EnergieKontor’s plans, said he had raised safety concerns with the council at the time of the application for the mast.

The doctor added that he would be asking the local authority not to allow the structure’s reinstatement.

He said the weather had been calm and questioned how the mast could not stand up to a “gentle breeze” given that it is designed to be put in windy locations.

Dr Lunn added: “The applicant has demonstrated it’s unable to even safely erect a fairly simple metal structure.

“How on Earth can the county council trust them in pouring over 4,000 tons of concrete into the ground to support 126m tall wind turbines if it cannot get this simple task right.”

Sam Dewar, project manager for EnergieKontor’s Fenrother scheme, said: “Our anemometer mast at Fenrother suffered some damage in the high winds on Monday night and, as such, has been removed for maintenance purposes.

“The mast will be re-erected in the very near future.”

A council spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the collapsed monitoring mast. We will be contacting the developer to find out the cause of this, and determine any implications.”

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