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Application for wind turbine in Derwent Valley is refused

A farmer’s bid to install a wind turbine in a picturesque valley has been refused.

The owner of Allendale Farm, at High Westwood, near Consett, was seeking permission to put a turbine on his land and the application was recommended for approval by planning officials.

However members of Durham County Council’s North Area planning committee refused the application amid concerns over the protection of the rural Derwent Valley.

While nine turbines are in operation on the Northumberland side of the valley, the committee was told, there were none on the County Durham side and a string of previous applications for a total of five turbines in the area had been withdrawn following opposition from residents.

The application was for a 20-metre turbine, with a maximum blade height of 27.2 metres, less than a quarter the height of the larger turbines already operating in Northumberland.

Planning officials said the turbine would only be visible from a relatively small number of houses in parts of High Westwood, Ebchester and Medomsley.

However, the application led to 24 letters of objection and a 73-name petition against the proposal from residents of the nearby village of The Dene.

Campaigner Joe Clarke highlighted the visual impact of the turbine from the popular footpaths which cross the site. He said: “Hundreds of people a year use those footpaths.

“It is not wanted, it is not needed by the community – it is an embarrassing blot on the landscape.”

Concerns were also raised over potential danger posed by the turbine to the local population of red kites, a protected bird species released into the Derwent Valley 10 years ago.

Richard Cowan, of Durham Bird Club, said: “The red kites are a tourist attraction, but certainly the turbine wouldn’t be. The red kite is recognised as being sensitive to turbines.”

Committee chairman Coun Carl Marshall said: “It is a relatively small turbine – I hear the issues raised by residents, but I can see no material planing grounds to refuse the application.”

However, the committee, meeting at Durham County Hall, refused the application on a majority vote.

Coun Alan Shiel said: “Other applications have been withdrawn because of concerns of residents about the incursions of wind farms on the south side of the Derwent Valley and in this case residents are extremely concerned”.