December 11, 2012

National Grid objects to Northumberland wind farm bid

by David Black, The Journal | Dec 11 2012 |

A controversial plan for a wind farm close to a Northumberland hamlet has generated an objection from a major energy distribution company – and sparked safety fears among locals.

National Grid – which supplies gas and electricity to customers across the UK – has lodged a holding objection to the bid by green power firm, Energiekontor UK, to build five turbines, each 126 metres high, on farmland at Fenrother, north of Morpeth.

It says one of the proposed turbines would be too close to a high-pressure gas pipeline which runs through the site, and doesn’t comply with the required safety clearances. National Grid has confirmed its objection in a letter to planning officers at Northumberland County Council, which is expected to make a decision on Energiekontor’s application early in the new year.

It says for wind farm schemes close to high-pressure gas pipelines the recommendation is for a separation distance of 1.5 times the turbine’s hub height. At Fenrother this would require a distance of 120 metres. National Grid says the current proposal has a stand-off of about 105 metres.

A local action group fighting the scheme has already sent in a 71,000-word objection document, and says about 1,000 letters of objection have also been submitted. Yesterday it claimed the National Grid intervention means the project is “not only the most unpopular planning application in Northumberland’s history but also one of the most dangerous.”

Dr James Lunn, who lives in Fenrother with his wife Gemma and young daughter, and is a leading member of the action group, said the wind farm could put public safety at risk and endanger the provision of gas supplies to hundreds of thousands of homes if allowed to go ahead in its current form.

He said locals raised concern about the proximity of one of the turbines to the gas distribution network more than a year ago – but Energiekontor chose to ignore this. Dr Lunn said the company’s planning application stated that the issue had been examined as part of “extensive constraint analysis”, and claimed the wind farm would have no impact on the gas pipeline.

He said: “This further demonstrates callous disregard for considering public safety, public concern and appropriate consultation displayed by Energiekontor. If they believe they have conducted extensive constraint analysis, yet fail to ask basic questions, it raises eyebrows at their professional ability.”

Last night Energiekontor project manager, Sam Dewar, said: “We stand by our comment in the submitted planning application. The turbines have been located at a recommended buffer distance from the mains gas pipeline that runs through the site, that being 1.5 times the hub height.”

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