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Durham Tees Valley Airport facing legal action over turbine plan

A firm behind a green scheme to power Middlesbrough FC’s stadium is set to launch a multi-million pound legal action against Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA).

Planners have ruled that Empowering Wind’s 136m-high turbine at the Riverside Stadium would not affect passenger safety.

The North Yorkshire-based developer said it was delighted Middlesbrough Council has finally agreed to remove a condition from its 2008 planning permission for the venture – for which DTVA asked the firm to pay it £700,000 before it would lift its objection to the scheme.

The authority’s decision ends a long-running row between the developer and the airport, which claimed planes may have needed to be re-routed five miles from the stadium if Empowering Wind did not pay towards updating its air traffic control system.

After a former National Air Traffic Service expert on the operational effects of wind turbines on radar displays said the 136m Riverside Stadium scheme would not endanger passengers leaving or arriving at DTVA, council officers said they were at a loss as to who to believe.

Following advice from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Paul Clarke, the council’s planning manager, said it had been confirmed the turbine could operate without compromising passenger safety.

Empowering Wind chief executive Paul Millinder said four months’ work to build the turbine, which will make the stadium the UK’s first major sports venue to become self-sustainable for electricity use and allow the club to invest more money in the team, would begin next month.

He said: “It’s great that the condition, which should not have been imposed by the council in the first place, has been discharged, but due to the length of time it’s taken, we have lost the tariff we were going to get for the electricity it generated.

“We will have to pursue litigation with the airport, and possibly the council, over it as the lost revenue amounts to £2.8m, plus costs.”

Mr Millinder said he was negotiating to take over three £1m single wind turbine schemes in the DTVA area that had planning permission, but had stalled over the past few years following claims over mitigation measures by the airport.

He said: “I am quite optimistic about being able to make these schemes become a reality following the advice from the CAA and will also examine a High Court group action with firms that have paid DTVA for radar mitigation measures.”

It is understood aviation minister and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill will question DTVA over its claims in the light of the advice from the CAA.

Mr Goodwill has previously demanded answers from DTVA over its agreement to drop safety-related objections to wind turbine schemes near Richmond, following a £10,000 deal with the developer.

A DTVA spokesman said: “We are awaiting a letter from Middlesbrough Council, which will explain the rationale behind this decision.

“We have no further comment to make at this stage.”