September 6, 2012

Plan to stop Northumberland wind farms is not backed

By Brian Daniel | The Journal | 6 September 2012

A council has refused to back a motion which called on it to slow the spread of wind turbines across Northumberland.

Northumberland County Council opted not to back a proposal that it address “a lack of leadership” on wind farm development, saying it might be open to legal challenges.

The motion to the full council meeting came from Glen Sanderson, deputy leader of the authority’s opposition Conservative group.

It called on the council to take “decisive action” to manage the spread of turbines, and claimed it has thus far shown it lacked leadership on their development.

The proposal claimed Northumberland faces “the largest pressure from speculative developers of any English county” and called on the authority to ask the Government to cut subsidies paid to these companies.

It called on the council to set out guidelines on acceptable distances from turbines to properties, to set criteria relating to cumulative impact of different schemes, and to only accept applications after all procedural requirements have been fully carried out.

Ahead of yesterday’s meeting, the council’s ruling Liberal Democrat group had accused the Tories of “utter hypocrisy” – citing its group leader Peter Jackson’s previous moves to site a turbine on his land near Ponteland. And the motion failed after both the Lib Dems and Labour groups chose not to back it, with council chief executive Steve Stewart confirming members’ fears that to implement the measures proposed could leave the authority open to potentially costly legal challenges.

Executive member for planning Tom Brechany said: “I ask this council to reject this motion for the following reason … aspects of this motion are illegal. There is a risk of judicial review with associated costs if this is refused.

“This council as a planning authority has a statutory duty to consider all planning applications. It can not refuse to accept planning applications if they are valid.”

The council has the option to set out minimum distance criteria for turbines, but, Coun Brechany added, this must be done through its core strategy which involves formal public consultation.

The motion was defeated by 40 votes to 13 with seven abstentions.

Coun Sanderson had earlier urged members to support it, saying: “We feel there is a need to get on and act swiftly. This motion simply asks you to take action now before it is too late for our residents.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s two MPs in Northumberland had criticised the motion ahead of the meeting.

Ronnie Campbell, member for Blyth, and Ian Lavery, member for Wansbeck, claimed it posed a threat to jobs in the county, at places like The National Renewable Energy Centre in the former’s constituency town.

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