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Minister rejects Fenrother wind farm plans to the delight of residents

The government has rejected controversial plans for a wind farm in the Northumberland countryside, to the delight of objectors.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has thrown out an appeal by Energiekontor UK Ltd relating to its refused bid for five 126m turbines at Fenrother, near Morpeth.

Mr Pickles ruled that the impact on residents and the green belt outweighed the need for renewable energy.

The decision has sparked joy among objectors who said it was “validation for the hundreds of people who have fought for three years against this inappropriate proposal.”

The Fenrother scheme faced overwhelming objections with an action group set up to oppose it submitting a 71,000-word document, backed by more than 1,600 letters.

Two local parish councils, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, Northumberland National Park, Morpeth Civic Society and the Northumberland Badger Group also objected.

Northumberland County Council officers recommended it be refused and their planning committee voted accordingly in January 2013.

The developer then appealed and a public inquiry was held before a government planning inspector.

Last October, Mr Pickles announced he had recovered the appeal, allowing him to make the final decision.

On Thursday, the minister announced he was rejecting the scheme, as the inspector had advised.

Mr Pickles concluded that the site was within the green belt and that the scheme would be “inappropriate development” in such a location and would “harm the openness of the area.”

It would also “conflict” with the purpose of designating green belt – preventing encroachment into the countryside.

The minister also ruled the proposal would “harm” residents’ living conditions, especially in Fenrother.

Mr Pickles acknowledged the need for renewable energy, creation of jobs and improvements to the local footpath network.

Yet he concluded: “Overall, the benefits of the proposal do not clearly outweigh the harm to the green belt and the harm to residents’ visual amenity.”

Dr James Lunn, of the Fenrother action group, who was last night hosting a celebration, said: “The decision is a validation for the hundreds of people who have fought for three years against this inappropriate proposal.

“The residents didn’t want it, the council didn’t want it, the councillors didn’t want, the planning officer didn’t want it and now the planning inspectorate has agree and said they don’t want it.

“The icing on the cake is that the secretary of state, representing the government, has said loud and clear ‘we don’t want it.’

“It can be no clearer. A wind farm in Fenrother never was, and will never be appropriate or acceptable.

“I feel sorry for the farmers who over the last three years have no doubt endured difficult times having been persuaded by Energiekontor that the scheme was appropriate and not harmful.

“I hope they can now see that the communities’ arguments have been shown to be right and agree to move forward as a unified hamlet once again and put the last three years behind us all.”

A spokesman for the county council said: “The council welcomes the secretary of state’s decision on this appeal which endorses the council’s decision to refuse planning permission for the wind farm development.

“The council is encouraged by the weight that the secretary of state has given to the need to protect the visual amenity of Northumberland residents when determining proposals for renewable energy and welcomes the conclusions of the secretary of state on the overall policy approach to renewable energy development in the green belt.”

Energiekontor did not provide a comment when approached by the Journal.