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Bishop of Newcastle hits out at wind turbine tourism damage

The Bishop of Newcastle has said he has a Christian duty to speak out against wind turbines turning the rural North East into a “disfigured industrial landscape”.

The Rt Revd Martin Wharton hit out at “the harm that is being done to our beautiful landscape on which the health of our rural economy, and especially tourism, depends.”

His comments add weight to those calling on the Government to consider the financial implications of allowing onshore wind turbines to undermine a county’s tourism offer.

After spending the summer seeing the sights of Northumberland, Bishop Martin said: “There is no evidence that I have seen that suggests that wind farms will ever provide the reliable, controllable energy that is required by our society, however many there might be. It is a basic Christian truth that we all have a duty and a responsibility to care for and exercise wise stewardship over God’s creation, which has been entrusted to us.

“Our countryside needs to be protected and preserved for ourselves, for our children and for our grandchildren as a place of refreshment and renewal for the spiritual health and well being of us all.”

He added: “We are blessed to live in an area of outstanding natural beauty. We enjoy a wonderful physical and spiritual heritage in this land of the Northern Saints. Is now not the time to say “enough” to any further blots on our landscape?”

Last night the Bishop’s comments were welcomed by those opposing further turbine expansion. In Berwick Conservative candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the Bishop was right to speak of the economic damage wind turbines cause.

“We have seen the likes of Wandylaw and Middlemoor given the go ahead in the face of strong local opposition, yet you only have to see the costal area to seer that ancient view is being destroyed by these turbines,” she said.

And Hexham Conservative MP Guy Opperman said the Bishop makes “a very powerful argument that we are stewards of our countryside.”

He added: “It is a timely reminder we must always balance our needs, be it housing or renewable energy, with a need to protect our wonderful environment and especially our beautiful Northumbian countryside.”

Northumberland County Council leader Grant Davey said the Bishop needed to be “fully appraised of the whole debate around wind turbines.”

The Labour leader added: “As a political party, Labour has pursued a pragmatic policy that gives local communities a big say in planning matters but we’re now facing conflicting messages from the coalition Government. Conservative ministers like Owen Patterson at DEFRA are attacking Liberal Democrat minister Ed Davey at DECC for being too pro-wind turbine. Residents in Northumberland have been caught in the middle of this spat. The needs Government to release the most up to date study on the impact.”

Turn to page 23 to read the Bishop’s comments in full.