August 8, 2014

Developer says Northumberland windfarm scheme not done yet

By Brian Daniel | The Journal 8 August 2014 |

A renewable energy firm which has failed in its bid for massive wind turbines in the Northumberland countryside is refusing to give up on the scheme.

Energiekontor UK Ltd has said it is looking into the decision to turn down its proposal for generators at Fenrother near Morpeth to consider if there are grounds for a challenge, and that it may submit a revised scheme.

The company has also claimed it is not surprised at being knocked back due to the current “political situation” – claiming minister Eric Pickles “has been turning down every windfarm going at the moment”.

Yet a man who led the opposition to the Fenrother project accused the firm of refusing to accept its “ship is sinking”.

The objector also pointed out that Mr Pickles has approved several wind farms but claimed he would find any revised scheme as “unacceptable” as the original.

The Fenrother scheme for five 126m turbines 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. The minister recently 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.”

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.”

Sam Dewar, project manager with Energiekontor, declined to comment when approached by The Journal.

But he commented elsewhere: “We are disappointed, but not overly surprised by the decision due to the political situation that we are in. Mr Pickles has been turning down every windfarm going at the moment.

“It is a shame because we have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on this project, but there are a few things we are looking at in the decision to see if we can challenge it.

“Following that decision we may or may not decide to re-submit the planning application in a different form. It is early days, but this may not be the end.”

Dr James Lunn, of the Fenrother action group, said: “Mr Dewar, despite being provided with incontrovertible proof that his ship is sinking continues to shout, albeit increasingly weakly, that his ship will survive.

“It will not. Not now, not ever. The locals don’t want it, Northumberland doesn’t want it, the planning inspectorate doesn’t want it and the government doesn’t want it.

“Mr Pickles has, contrary to Mr Dewar’s comments, approved several wind farms. He does not feel this one is acceptable and I doubt would find any altered scheme acceptable.

“Mr Dewar is however welcome to throw hundreds of thousands of good pounds after the hundreds of thousands which have already sunk out of reach.”

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