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New prejudice rules may gag wind debate  

Credit:  The Berwick Advertiser | 4 January 2013 | www.berwick-advertiser.co.uk ~~

Belford’s parish councillors fear new local government rules could silence their opposition to wind turbine plans.

Members are wary of breaking new regulations barring councillors making remarks considered prejudicial about issues on which they will be voting.

Coun Geoff O’Connell said he had sought legal advice from the county council, but had been told it could not advise them.

He said: “I find it totally unsatisfactory that we can’t get guidance from the county council, which in this case is also the planning authority, on how we avoid breaching our duties and therefore risk disqualification as parish councillors. If we all get disqualified, we don’t have a parish council and they don’t have a statutory consultee.”

It was “at the very least unfortunate the planning applications were staggered,” he said, because commenting on one might be deemed prejudicial to the other.

Members were also unhappy about the way public-speaking time is shared at county meetings, Coun O’Connell having been timed out after only 15 seconds because campaigners had taken most of the time at a meeting about EnergieKontor’s wind mast application.

Two windfarm proposals near Belford are currently in the offing: EnergieKontor are planning one to the west and Air Farmers one to the north. The German firm EnergieKontor is currently appealing the rejection of their application for a 60m mast at Belford Burn.

It is also expected to submit another application for up to nine 100m turbines in the near future.

Councillors said the masts would have an unacceptable impact on ecology, the character of the landscape and the coastline.

Source:  The Berwick Advertiser | 4 January 2013 | www.berwick-advertiser.co.uk

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