A firm battling Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA) over a scheme to power Middlesbrough FC’s stadium with a 136m-high wind turbine has moved to ensure the High Court or the Planning Inspectorate settles the dispute.
North Yorkshire-based developer Empowering Wind said it had served Middlesbrough Council with an appeal notice over its application to remove a condition from its planning permission for the multi-million pound venture – for which DTVA requires the firm to pay it £700,000 to fulfil.
Boro officials say the turbine would make the Riverside Stadium the UK’s first major sports venue to become self-sustainable for electricity use – allowing the club to invest more money in the team.
But DTVA has claimed radar returns from the turbine would threaten passenger safety and planes may need to be re-routed five miles away from the stadium if Empowering Wind doesn’t pay towards updating its air traffic control system.
Empowering Wind chief executive Paul Millinder said he had presented overwhelming evidence to the council showing the turbine posed no threat to aircraft safety and had become exasperated by the authority’s failure to discharge the planning condition.
He said resultant delays in launching the turbine had cost his firm millions of pounds.
His decision to bypass the council follows the Northern Echo obtaining a series of leaked emails written by the authority’s officers revealing they had been satisfied there was no safety issue with the turbine and had determined to lift the condition “irrespective of the views of the airport”, before reversing their decision a day later.
In one message, officers questioned DTVA’s motives for seeking payments in the region of £700,000 to lift its objection to the turbine, while in another email an executive director of the council describes the level of DTVA’s demands as “extraordinary”.
A spokesman for Middlesbrough Council said the planning row had proved difficult to resolve as its officers did not have the expertise to adjudicate on civil aviation matters, adding that it had followed the guidance of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
He said: “In view of the CAA’s position, combined with the conflicting evidence presented by the applicant and the objector, the council is currently unable to determine the application until it has sufficient technical expertise and information to make a judgement.
“In order to help resolve the current situation, the CAA has now offered technical advice to the council, and the council is taking up this offer, and hopes to bring the matter to a conclusion in the new year.”
A DTVA spokesman declined to comment.