A decision on whether a wind turbine can be sited close to Northumberland’s answer to Stonehenge is to be made by a government minister.
The decision on the turbine near the 4,000-year-old Duddo stone circle, is to be decided by a secretary of state rather than a government planning inspector, after the minister chose to determine it himself.
The scheme has already been subject to government intervention after minister for communities and local government Kris Hopkins quashed the planning permission previously given, following an appeal from the guardians of the stones, backed by North East peers and the Bishop of Newcastle.
The latest intervention has been welcomed by a local resident who claimed the application “has increasingly been seen as a test case for the protection of our heritage from inappropriate industrial wind development.”
The farmer behind the application – who knew nothing of the intervention until approached by The Journal – said he would welcome a visit by the minister before making the decision.
Scottish company 3R Energy Solution’s plans for the 74m machine at Shoreswood Farm, Ancroft – south of Berwick, and home of William Jackson, were initially turned down by Northumberland County Council.
The company appealed to the planning inspectorate and were given the green light in January.
However Mr Jackson’s neighbours Frank and Claire Dakin, who own the land on which the stones are located, mounted a legal challenge against the decision which was due to be heard at the High Court.
Baroness Joyce Quin and fellow North East peers – as well as the Bishop of Newcastle – then lobbied Mr Hopkins to overturn the decision amid concern about the scale of wind farm development in Northumberland.
As a result, the minister ruled that the legal challenge could not be defended and withdrew from the court hearing, ordering the inspectorate quash the permission and decide the appeal again.
The appeal was to be redetermined by a planning inspector but will now be decided by an unspecified secretary of state.
A letter explaining the change in decision maker says it is “because the appeal involves a renewable energy development.”
Don Brownlow, former member of Duddo Parish Council and now its clerk, and who runs the Windbyte website which monitors turbine development in the region, said: “There has been huge concern over the Shoreswood turbine and its impacts on the Duddo stone circle. “Because of its importance, Duddo Parish Council and others asked for the decision to be recovered during the last appeal. “Unfortunately, the decision was left to an inspector who failed to give proper weight to preserving the setting of the monument and allowed the appeal.
“Because the county council would not defend their original refusal, local people were left to risk very large costs in making a claim to the high court against that perverse decision.
“Shoreswood has increasingly been seen as a test case for the protection of our heritage from inappropriate industrial wind development.
“In view of its high profile, especially after the House of Lords debate on wind development in Northumberland, where it received special mention, it is entirely understandable that the secretary of state has decided to recover the decision this time.”
Mr Jackson said: “Mr Hopkins or Mr Pickles (Eric, secretary of state for communities and local government) will both be very welcome.
“I would be very disappointed if they did not visit before they made a decision.
“Despite claims of influence in government by some opponents, we are surprised that this development, which is neither large nor controversial, is being called in by the secretary of state.”
The farmer said he had not been informed of the ministerial intervention until approached by The Journal, which he deemed “a little bit strange.”