Plans for a wind turbine set to over-shadow Northumberland’s answer to Stonehenge have been blocked by a Government minister.
Following intervention from the region’s peers, a leading planning minister has asked the inspectorate to reconsider their decision to approve the proposed structure close to the 4000-year-old Duddo stone circle.
Campaigners last night heralded the move as a victory for landscape conservation and described their 11th hour support from Government as a serious knockback to wind turbine development in the North East.
Baroness Joyce Quin, who led a cross-party campaign against the turbine being built, said: “I am delighted that the minister responded to our concerns and hope that this decision will herald a change of approach so that Northumberland’s precious landscape, which is so important to residents and tourists alike, is safeguarded against such developments in the future.”
Plans for a turbine on farmland at Duddo near Berwick-upon-Tweed were given the green light in January by the planning inspectorate after an appeal by Scottish company 3R Energy Solution.
They had previously been turned down by Northumberland County Council for planning permission for an 800 kilowatt machine at Shoreswood Farm, Ancroft – south of Berwick, and home of William Jackson.
However Mr Jackson’s neighbours Frank and Claire Dakin mounted a legal challenge to the appeal which was due to be heard in the High Court in London on Wednesday.
Yet before the hearing could take place Minister for Communities and Local Government Kris Hopkins decided the Government was unable to legally defend its decision to allow the turbine and withdrew from the case.
Over-ruling the planning inspectorate’s judgement came after lobbying by a group of peers from the North East and the Bishop of Newcastle, who raised their concerns about the scale of wind farm development in Northumberland.
Baroness Quin said: “At this stage the scheme has been knocked back. It’s not necessarily the end of the road but none the less I believe that the inspectorate would need to come up with some very powerful reasons for allowing it at this stage.”
The original appeal case put forward by 3R Energy Solution will now be redetermined by the planning inspectorate later on in the year and it is possible it may be heard by the same person.
The 74m turbine was planned to be less than two miles from the scheduled ancient monument, also known as The Women or the Singing Stones, and which is made up of five large blocks of stone, created in the Neolithic period.
It attracts hundreds of visitors every year and is a 1km walk from the nearest road.
Following the decision to approve the plans in January, The Journal carried an article from Clare Dakin, on whose land the stones are sited, in which she spoke of her dismay and Baroness Quin decided to take up her cause.
Baroness Quin – former MP for Gateshead East and Washington West – arranged for a group of cross-party members including Lord Walton of Detchant, Lord Ian Wrigglesworth and Viscount Matt Ridley – with the support of the Bishop of Newcastle – to raise their concerns to the minister about the scale of wind farm development in Northumberland.
Minister Hopkins then withdrew the Government from defending itself in Mrs Dakin’s case after initial arguments were put forward on a matter of heritage protection.
“It has been a nerve-wracking time but we felt we could not stand by and watch the turbine being built without challenging what we knew to be a bad decision,” said Mrs Dakin, who will also be paid £17,000 by the Government to part cover her £20,000 legal fees.
“We will continue to fight this, and similar proposals, for as long as we have to.
“The atmosphere at the stone circle is quite special and it’s a very emotional experience. Having an industrial thing slicing through the air like a meat slicer would have just been awful.”
A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council revealed the authority has asked for the new appeal to be heard alongside one for two turbines at nearby Felkington.
She said: “We have noted the decision, and will be dealing with requests for information from the Planning Inspectorate.
“We have asked the inspectorate if they will consider both this and the Felkington Farm appeal being dealt with by the same inspector.”