The best views in Teesdale may be protected from wind turbine developments following concerns about their impact on tourism.
The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has extra protection against major developments such as wind farms, but the rest of Teesdale does not.
Durham County Council planning officers have admitted they are facing increasing inquiries from renewable energy companies about putting up wind turbines in the dale.
And now members of Teesdale Action Partnership (TAP) are coming up with a plan to ramp up protection based on the importance of tourism.
Campaigners have long held concerns that wind farms will put off tourists coming to Teesdale – and the tourism industry in the dale supports many businesses.
TAP wants Teesdale’s picturesque landscape, and its draw for sightseers and holidaymakers, to be included in the County Durham Plan, a strategy that will help shape the next 20 years.
Cllr Richard Bell said: “We are looking at getting the county council to extend protection to certain landscapes in Teesdale outside the AONB. We are asking what sort of views or vistas are worth protecting.”
If TAP’s bid is successful, it will be much harder for developers to get planning permission for turbines in the prettiest parts of Teesdale.
Craig Morgan, TAP co-ordinator, said: “We are looking at the impact of wind turbines and other intrusive developments on the natural environment, which is our greatest asset.”
“We want to form an understanding that says these things should be considered from a tourism perspective.”
Opposition groups are fighting a number of wind power developments, including sites at Hamsterley, Punder Gill, Wycliffe and Bowes
Earlier this year, a High Court judge rejected plans for wind turbines, which she said would “harm the character” of an area of the Norfolk Broads.
Mrs Justice Lang added the Government’s encouragement of renewable energy did not outweigh local conservation policies.
South Teesdale Action Group (STAG) said the ruling supports its campaign to fight two separate wind turbine proposals less than a mile apart at Hulands Quarry, near Bowes, and Punder Gill, near Scargill.
Keith Alexander, from STAG, said: “This landmark judgement gives STAG confidence that if local people object and state clearly that they do not want these developments in Teesdale they will win.
“There is a common belief that local people cannot influence planning decisions especially when opposing big business but this couldn’t be further from the truth as the Norfolk case shows. The landscape of the Norfolk Broads and that of Teesdale couldn’t be more different but they are both areas of outstanding natural beauty that we are in danger of jeopardising.”
Mr Alexander said that STAG has written to Aggregates Ltd, which own Hulands Quarry, asking the firm to withdraw their proposals.
“Aggregates Ltd have conducted themselves well, laying on a detailed presentation to local people at Boldron village hall and answering all our questions but if they are truly a reasonable and responsible company, who respond to local concerns, they will drop this inappropriate proposal before it gets to application,” he said.
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