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Concerns raised about lack of turbine enforcement action

A farmer who erected a wind turbine without planning permission at New Haggerston will not face enforcement action from Northumberland County Council.

The local authority says such a move against Sinclair Robson would be inappropriate at this stage.

Mr Robson was initially given the green light to build the turbine by the council’s north area planning committee in February.

However, Andrew Joicey from New Etal, near Cornhill, secured a judicial review of the decision and the council’s approval of two other turbine applications at Wark Common and Brackenside, Ford.

There were many detailed objections to the Wark Common (71m to blade tip) and nearby Brackenside (47m to blade tip) proposals from local people regarding the poor quality of these applications, which had been accepted by planning officers. Residents also felt there were issues with the way the applications were handled.

There were also concerns north of the border, particularly in relation to the Wark Common turbine, which would have been visible from parts of Berwickshire.

The council conceded it had made some procedural errors and accepted that the permissions should be quashed by the High Court in London. It also agreed to pay Mr Joicey’s costs, amounting to over £10,000.

The High Court subsequently revoked the approvals, meaning the council would have to redetermine the applications.

Despite no longer having permission, Mr Robson started assembling the New Haggerston turbine in June. He was visited by council officers and was asked to stop until he had received permission but it is understood the installation has now been completed although the engine itself is not yet operational.

Mr Joicey and others living in the area wrote to the council voicing concern that nothing had been done to stop the turbine being erected.

But a spokesperson for Northumberland County Council said: “We wrote to the applicant advising him that he should stop work until the application has been determined. It would not be appropriate for the council to take formal enforcement action until we have determined the planning application. This is in line with Government guidance.”

Speaking after the High Court judgement, Mr Joicey said he hoped it would force the council to reasses the way it assesses planning applications for turbines.

At the time he said: “It has been abundantly clear for some time that there have been systemic errors in their handling of wind turbine applications, both for large-scale wind farms and for individual so-called ‘farm-scale’ turbines. Unfortunately this has led to several permissions being granted which will, I believe, result in an undesirable impact on rural landscapes.

The application is likely to be reheard on November 1. Mr Robson was unavailable for comment.