Wind farm opponents breathed a sigh of relief as two Northumberland developments were refused – despite one offering a record-breaking financial package to the community.
Villagers were offered £3.3m to develop a railway station and set up an annual community fund by a wind-farm developer who hoped to put nine 100m high turbines at Belford Burn.
However at a packed meeting of Northumberland County Council’s planning committee, councillors refused the application from Energiekontor UK on the grounds that its visual harm would outweigh the benefits of renewable energy.
Councillor Milburn Douglas, who represents the Lynemouth ward, said the financial offer had not swayed residents to lend their support to the scheme.
“Money can’t buy what the residents are being asked to give up,” he told the meeting.
The planning committee also refused an application for five 127m high wind turbines at Rayburn Lake near Morpeth.
The double refusal has been welcomed by campaigners who have been fighting proposals for well over a year.
The Belford Burn development would have been seen by visitors to Holy Island and walkers on the St Cuthbert’s Way trail, had it gone ahead.
Brenda Stanton, chair of Belford Parish Council, said: “I’m delighted by the decision. Tourism is the life-blood of the area so everybody was so afraid whether people would invest anymore money. We live in a Conservation Area and we are so close to the Area of Outstanding National Beauty too.”
Ian McNeil, who lives in Wooler, said the decision was ‘tremendous’ for the local community. He said: “If you look at how wind-farms work they rarely save carbon dioxide overall because they have to be backed up by a fossil fuel station. They have a phenomenal cost, which we are all paying for.”
Michael Briggs, the proposal’s project manager for Energiekontor UK, said the Belford Burn wind-farm would have created enough energy to power 15% of Northumberland’s homes with electricity. The site’s position would have also meant that the wind farm would have had a higher than average capacity to create energy.
He said the community financial package would have involved £500,000 to develop the train station, a project the community has wanted to see completed for two decades.
“This would have been the largest community package in Northumberland with £3.3m going directly to the local area,” he said.
The planning committee unanimously backed the officer’s recommendation to refuse the scheme on the grounds that it would have caused ‘significant and unacceptable’ adverse impacts on the landscape, the Northumberland Coast AONB and Heritage Coast and would have had an adverse effect on the safe operation of Ministry of Defences Air Defence Radar at Brizlee Wood.
The financial offer on the table for the Belford community did not play a part in determining the planners’ decision, nor did the strength of feeling against the development.
The decision to refuse the Rayburn Lake development was due to its ‘adverse impact’ on the landscape and aviation safety.
John Trevvellyn, vice chair of Netherwitton Parish Council, who had been campaigning against the proposal, said: “Northumberland has already met its renewable targets. There is also a concern this would have on the Grade I listed Netherwitton Hall. This would create an unacceptable ‘scar’ on one of the county’s most valued assets.”
Both companies now have the option to appeal.
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