A wind farm that has struggled to get off the ground for more than nine years needs only Ministry of Defence approval to go ahead.
EDF Energy Renewables first submitted plans for its wind farm at Royal Oak farm, Bolam, in 2005 but Darlington Borough Council only gave consent in January this year.
However, the proposals are causing concern for residents who have been battling a number of wind turbine schemes since 2009. They are questioning why the energy company did not have to reapply for permission because of the time that has lapsed.
A council spokesperson said approval was granted subject to EDF entering into a Section 106 agreement, which would provide money to restore a former open cast coal site.
It is understood the turbines could affect radar at RAF Leeming.
But a spokesman for the power company said: “The original planning approval was subject to a Ministry of Defence aviation condition and our consultants are currently looking at solutions which should enable the condition to be discharged.”
The spokesman said the company was not in a position to confirm construction timescales, but said that site would include five turbines with a capacity of 6.5MW.
Villagers in Bolam fought a “David and Goliath” battle with Npower several years ago. Npower wanted to build six large turbines nearby but gave up on the plans when the Ministry of Defence said it could affect radar at RAF Leeming. Bolam residents also successfully fought off plans to build a 95ft turbine at Leggs Cross Farm, on the edge of the village.
Resident Kathy Pagella said she was “shocked” when she heard about the proposals for Royal Oak farm.
She said: “The turbines would overlook us – I couldn’t believe it when I saw them. We were just saying that the days of onshore wind farms seemed to be over and now this.”
Trevor Edwards, chairman of Bolam Area Action Group (BAAG), said: “My only question is normally planning lasts five years – why did they not have to reapply. It sounds like they are using a technical clause to get around having to reapply.”
A spokesman for Darlington Borough Council said: “The Section 106 Agreement related to alterations to the approved restoration scheme for the former Southfields Open Cast Coal Site which part of the wind farm site overlaps with and which were necessary due to the siting of the turbines.
“The Section 106 Agreement was not signed until January 2014 due largely to changes in land ownership following UK Coal’s disposal of the former opencast site.”
Mr Edwards said: “If they applied now, with subsidies I believe changing in April, would it have been worthwhile? If they weren’t getting subsidies, would they be building them?
“It would have been nice to see what would have happened if they had to reapply, knowing what everybody knows about turbines now.”
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