Road safety fears have not been addressed in a bid to erect a new windfarm, objectors say.
An application has been submitted by Energiekontor UK to erect five 126.5m-tall turbines at Fenrother, near Longhorsley, to provide power for up to 7,600 homes.
But the plans are facing fierce opposition from local residents, and the Fight Fenrother and Longhorsley Windfarm Group has compiled a 71,000 community objection file.
Included in the dossier is a section on road safety after the group commissioned a report from Traffic Management Adviser Malcolm Heymer, who has previously given evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee.
Mr Heymer, who has also spoken on behalf of windfarm objectors in two planning appeals, said potential problems included the physical impact from the collapse of a turbine, blade failure or material, such as ice, thrown from it, as well as the possibility of driver distraction.
He said that while the Fenrother windfarm would be sited beyond the minimum 176m separation distance from roads, one of the turbines would be close to the alignment of the proposed A1 dual carriageway.
Planning advice states that windfarms should not be treated differently from other distractions, such as advertising hoardings.
However, Mr Heymer says that due to their moving parts turbines will be among the more distracting features a driver could encounter and he points out that the Highways Agency accepts the risk in planning guidance.
It states that the potential for visual distraction should be minimised by ensuring a clear, continuous view of the windfarm that develops over a long approach so that drivers do not suddenly come upon it, that turbines should not be located where motorists need to pay particular attention, such as beside junctions, sharp bends or crossings, and that sites with a history of rear-end shunt accidents should be treated with caution.
Mr Heymer concludes that it is essential for Energiekontor to provide assessments of the impact of a windfarm on both the A697 and A1, as well as visualisations showing how it will be seen by drivers.
Campaign Group Chairman Dr James Lunn said the documents are particularly important for the Fenrother site as the area is an accident blackspot, with junctions and blind summits, while large hedgerows would screen it from drivers’ view until close up.
“This report highlights what large numbers of local residents have raised in their objections,” he said.
“It really amazed local residents that there is clear guidance on what the council needs to see and do and this application doesn’t contain any information that allows anybody to do an assessment of the roads.
“I hope the council and councillors recognise that if the application doesn’t consider it it is on their heads be it.
“We look forward to asking about this at the public meeting.”
However, Energiekontor Project Manager Sam Dewar said he is satisfied that no further information is needed for the application.
“This has been addressed in the submitted details. Having spoken to the case officer about this pre-submission they are happy with the level of information that has been submitted,” he said.
“Drivers are required to take reasonable care to ensure their own and others’ safety and wind turbines should therefore not be treated any differently from other distractions a driver must face and should not be considered particularly hazardous. In addition there are now a large number of windfarms adjoining or close to road networks and there has been no history of accidents at any of them.
“A piece of research was undertaken by Faber Maunsell in 2004 reviewing accident records surrounding windfarms. The results showed no significant increase between the number of accidents before and after the construction of the windfarm. In one occasion there was a decrease.”
Mr Dewar said around 450 letters of support for the scheme have now been submitted and the site is an ideal location for a windfarm to provide environmentally-friendly power.
“Final plans are progressing and we’re delighted to have received so many pledges of support for the windfarm,” he said.
“There is clearly a groundswell of opinion with many people able to see the scheme’s benefits and clearly in favour of us progressing further.
“We have presented a very persuasive argument for windfarm development and I’m confident the council will see the advantages on offer and give its backing for the project.”
Around 700 letters of objection to the plans have also been submitted and a survey carried out by Tritlington and West Chevington Parish Council showed 83.7 per cent of respondents were against the proposal.
A public meeting will be held before the application is determined by Northumberland County Council.
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