Residents living near a planned wind farm site have questioned whether the council would be willing and able to fight for their rights if the development causes a noise nuisance.
The Moor House wind farm site, on the outskirts of Darlington, was discussed at a meeting of Sadberge Parish Council, where a number of concerns about the future operation and monitoring of the development were raised.
Members heard that a controversial bid by Banks Renewables, the company behind the wind farm, to remove a condition protecting residents from unacceptable noise has been dropped, with a new application submitted to Darlington Borough Council to instead amend its terms.
The council and a number of residents at the meeting said they were pleased with the new condition, which gives the local authority the power to decide whether there is a noise nuisance that must be investigated.
However, some residents raised concerns about whether staff at the council had the technical expertise to deal with issues from the wind farm or if the authority would be willing to be drawn into a potentially long and costly fight with Banks.
A spokeswoman for the council said the authority had a duty to ensure any conditions in the planning permission are complied with and that any evidence of non-compliance would be investigated.
Banks Renewables had applied to the council to remove a condition relating to amplitude modulation (AM), a rare noise sound effect found at some wind farms, on the grounds that it was not legally enforceable.
The planning committee at the council told Banks to find a way to come up with a legally enforceable solution that would be accepted by residents, the council and the company, resulting in an amendment to the condition.
Alastair McKenzie, clerk to Sadberge parish council, told councillors: “In my opinion the revised condition will enable Darlington Borough Council to provide protection to residents if AM does occur.
“In the event of a complaint from a resident relating to noise from the wind farm, if it is the opinion of the council that there is evidence of AM and that harm is being caused to residents, the company must come up with a plan for dealing with it in two weeks.
“The revised condition is much better as long as the council is willing to take effective enforcement action.”
A resident at the meeting questioned whether the council had a procedure in place to deal with issues arising from wind farms and asked whether staff at the authority had the technical expertise necessary to deal with problems quickly.
He added: “If someone had a complaint will there be a number for them to ring? Who at the council will answer that number and what information will they take from us? What action are they going to take? We need to know before the wind farm is built.”
A Darlington Borough Council spokeswoman said: “The proposal is due to be considered at planning committee in the near future.
“When a planning condition is attached to a planning permission, it is added in order to make the planning permission acceptable. The council has a duty to ensure that any condition is complied with. In a case when non compliance is brought to the council’s attention an investigation is carried out to resolve the issues as soon as possible.”