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Sedgefield MP presents Bill to make it easier for local people to reject giant windfarms

A bill to make it easier for local people to block the building of giant wind turbines will be presented to parliament today (Wednesday, December 12), by a North-East MP.

Phil Wilson, the Sedgefield MP, will urge ministers to change the rules to prevent the decision being automatically “called in ” and made by a government minister.

The move follows growing concern over the spread of wind farms in County Durham, which has led to fears that the area will become the “land of the wind turbine”.

Already, there are 17 wind farms in operation, with a further 13 in the planning system – enough to power 70 per cent of the homes in the county, Mr Wilson said.

And battle is raging over E.ON’s plans for a 24-turbine wind development near Newton Aycliffe, called The Isles, which is currently out to consultation.

Turbines could be built within a mile of Newton Aycliffe and Chilton, and close to Woodham, Bradbury, Mordon and Preston-le-Skerne, either side of the A1(M) and close to the A167.

Now Mr Wilson will argue The Isles is exactly the sort of proposal that should be decided by local planners, not the Local Government Secretary, acting on the advice of the planning inspectorate quango.

He said: “At the moment, if a wind farm is going to generate more than 50 megawatts of electricity it is deemed to be a project of ‘national significance’ and the decision is made by the secretary of state.

“Yet the E.ON application will only generate enough electricity for Newton Aycliffe and Sedgefield Village. Much as I love those two places, the issue of a wind farm for them is not of national significance.

“A nuclear power station – such as the one, 15 miles away, that generates 1,480 megawatts – is of national significance, but wind farms should be decided by the local planning authority.”

Mr Wilson added that County Durham already generated 27 per cent of its power from renewable sources – within touching distance of the national target of 30 per cent, by 2020.

The E.ON application is due to be decided by Energy Secretary Ed Davey, taking advice from what a minister called an “expert unit” within the department.

The Liberal Democrat is pro-wind power, but Conservatives from David Cameron downwards have made increasingly hostile noises about onshore developments.

Meanwhile, it was revealed yesterday that a 69-year-old grandmother is mounting a landmark legal challenge against the government over the number of wind turbines being built in Scotland.

Christine Metcalfe, from Argyll, will claim today, at the United Nations in Geneva, that Britain and the European Union have failed to ensure the public is given accurate information about the adverse impact of wind power.