Potential sites for wind farms in Teesdale have been revealed.
Durham County Council says there is “limited potential for further large scale deployment of onshore wind” in the county.
But a map showing the few areas which could be suitable has been released. They include a site near Barningham, north of Bowes, land around Ingleton and Bolam, land north of Stainton, near Cotherstone, south of Butterknowle and Copley, and near the village of Woodland.
The news is unlikely to be welcomed by many residents – especially protestors who fought off a wind farm plan for Barningham in the High Court a decade ago.
There currently 136 wind turbines in County Durham and 27 with planning consent but not yet built. These include large-scale developments such as Tow Law.
Drawing up a new strategy, county planners say there is now potential for smaller wind farms to be built “wherever opportunities can be identified”.
The north of Teesdale is protected from big wind farms because it is in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Other constraints – such as terrain, heritage and “visual dominance” – mean other areas of the dale are also off limits.
But Durham County Council’s wind turbine map has revealed sites considered to be possibilities.
However, planners have warned developers could be scuppered by concerns about MOD radar, grid capacity and the landowners. A decision has still not been reached on proposals by Banks Developers to site five 115-metre turbines between the village of Woodland and Hamsterley Forest.
Meanwhile, developers are pressing to build more single turbines in the dale.
In the past couple of years, Teesdale villages have been fighting applications for single turbines including Bolam, Eggleston, Hutton Magna, Wycliffe and Bowes.
In its report on renewable energy development, the council says there is “currently considerable developer interest” in single turbines because of Government cash incentives.
But the report warns: “These all have the potential to have cumulative effects on the character of the landscape.”
It adds: “It is an established principle in planning that there is no right to a view.
“However, where large moving structures are developed in close proximity to a residential property the effects can be overbearing or oppressive, and may render a property an unattractive place to live and this will be a material planning consideration.”
The council’s strategy has also reiterated the AONB’s protection from large-scale wind energy development.
“This wildness, coupled with the openness of the landscape, makes it highly vulnerable to the impacts of commercial-scale wind energy development,” the report says.
But the council says the AONB “can make a contribution to the deployment of renewable energy technologies of a smaller scale” although anything over 25m is unlikely to get approval.
“Indeed small scale renewable technologies have been rolled out to a greater extent in the AONB than rural landscapes elsewhere in the county, partly because of the costs and difficulties of supplying conventional energy sources, and partly because of the support of bodies like the North Pennines AONB Partnership,” the council says.
The AONB currently has 27 operational or permitted small turbines.
Top planners at County Hall have also said wind turbines are unlikely to be “overbearing” if they are around 800m or further from the nearest house – or a distance of six times the turbine height.
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