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Anger over turbine bid near ‘lethal’ A1 junction

Residents have reacted with horror after plans were submitted to site a 220-foot-high wind turbine next to a stretch of the A1 branded Britain’s most dangerous road.

Empirica Investments has applied to Northumberland County Council for a single turbine, measuring 67 metres from base to blade tip, in a field at Old Felton.

But it will stand just 250 metres away from the dual carriageway – so close that the flicker shadow created by the spinning blades will be cast over both the north and southbound lanes.

And local people are particularly concerned about the turbine’s proximity to the notorious Guyzance-Swarland crossroad, which has been the scene of numerous fatal and serious-injury road accidents over the last decade.

Back in March, a public meeting held at Swarland heard how the four-and-a-half-mile dual-carriageway stretch between Hampeth and the River Coquet had a record of eight accidents leading to 13 deaths – equivalent to three deaths per mile – between 1999 and 2010.

Since that data was compiled, there has been one more fatal accident, just after Christmas last year, bringing the death toll to 14.

A further accident on August 16 involved two cars colliding at the Guyzance junction.

Bill Sidgwick, whose home at Lane Head is one of the closest to the proposed turbine, says the plans should be rejected outright on road safety grounds.

“It would be clearly visible from any vehicle coming south and approaching the Guyzance crossroads,” he said. “There have been several deaths and numerous accidents here in the last few years.”

However, Empirica says studies conducted by highways experts show no evidence that turbines distract drivers.

A spokesman for Empirica said: “The potential for driver distraction is frequently raised in conjunction with proposals to erect wind turbines, either individually, or grouped to form often large windfarms. “Consequently, much research has been undertaken into the accident effects of such developments, most notably by Schreuder and Braun (1992), which concluded that no link can be identified between the erection of wind turbine equipment and increased road traffic accidents.

“Ironically, empirical evidence suggests a decrease in accident rates, possibly linked to reduced vehicle speeds.

“Although concern is often expressed by objectors in the planning process, drivers experience varied and competing distractions during any normal journey and there is no empirical evidence to support any assertion that wind turbine developments cause undue distraction to a level which is deleterious to road safety.”

But Mr Sidgwick remains unconvinced.

“What distracts drivers on a busy road? The unexpected, the unusual, the intrusive and the grotesque,” he said.

“Our councillors have fulminated about the dangers of the A1 for years and nothing effective has been done.

“After the Mousen bends near Belford, this is the most dangerous spot on the A1 between Newcastle and the Border.

“Now is their chance to make a positive contribution to at least prevent it from becoming more dangerous.”

Chairman of Newton on the Moor and Swarland Parish Council, Coun David Rixon, said the concerns of local people were well-founded, given the history of fatal accidents, and could not be dismissed so easily.

“The accident record speaks for itself,” he said. “With that in mind, if you add a turbine of this size so close to the road, it is going to distract people and heighten the potential for an accident.

“It should absolutely be refused.”

Empirica’s application is expected to go before the county council’s planning committee in October for a decision.

A 50-metre-high meteorological mast was approved for the site in July and erected soon after to measure wind speeds prior to the turbine bid.