Huge wind turbines which were allowed by the government in the face of massive opposition have finally begun turning.
Plans for six 110m engines at Barmoor near Berwick were given the go-ahead by a government minister in 2010, having been fought by hundreds of local people for several years including through a public inquiry.
They have now finally begun turning, with one man who led the fight claiming the generators are the blot on the landscape he warned they would be.
A planning application from Catamount Energy and Force 9 Energy was first submitted to the now defunct Berwick Borough Council in 2006.
Scores of local people formed the Save our Unspoilt Landscape (SOUL) action group to fight the proposal, fearing the turbines would ruin views of the surrounding countryside and put off visitors.
The plan was rejected by the borough council in March 2008, alongside projects for turbines at Toft Hill and Moorsyde.
However, all three developers appealed and a joint public inquiry took place in 2009.
Then secretary of state for communities and local government John Denham gave approval for the Barmoor wind farm to be built a year later, but rejected the other two schemes.
Five years on, the turbines have finally begun turning.
EDF Energy Renewables, which acquired the scheme last year, says the scheme is capable of producing enough low carbon electricity to meet the annual needs of approximately 6,500 homes.
The company, which has the project working one month ahead of schedule, will manage a £60,000 a year community benefit fund.
Head of construction, John Penman, said: “We’re very proud to have delivered this project efficiently, safely and ahead of schedule.
“I’m full of praise for what our team has achieved here at Barmoor.
“I am also very grateful to the local community and those living near the site for their patience and support during the construction process.
“Although we strived, as we always do, to keep disruption to a minimum and keep our neighbours informed of how the works were progressing, we really do appreciate the support and interest from local people we received as we carried out the works.”
Nick Bradford, EDF’s head of asset management, added: “Barmoor wind farm will make an important contribution to the supply of low carbon electricity required by the local area and beyond.
“As the operators of wind farms across the country, our goal is to not only to generate electricity, but to become a part of the communities that host our projects.
“One of the ways we can give something back to the local area is through community benefit funds like the one we’ve set up at Barmoor.
“I’m delighted to say that the final administrative elements are being put in place and that the fund should be looking at making its first grants to local projects sometime this coming spring.”
Cornhill farmer Andrew Joicey, who was a leading member of SOUL, said: “The most common reactions from local people to the Barmoor wind farm, now that it is built, are ‘how did they allow that?’ and ‘I never realised they were going to be that big,’ and
‘no-one ever told me they would be so visible from X, Y or Z location.’”
Mr Joicey said the same people had said they would have done more to oppose the wind farm had they known how visible the turbines would be.
He added: “Apart from a very few people who mistakenly still believe EDF’s phoney propaganda about ‘the benefits,’ it is my experience that the majority of comments on the finished Barmoor wind farm have been negative – which is exactly as most people predicted.
“That is: people see them not only as a blatantly inappropriate development in landscape and planning terms, but also as a complete scandal in financial terms, because the large subsidy paid to the operator EDF is sourced directly from electricity consumers through their rising electricity bills.”
Mr Joicey claimed the £60,000 fund would “divide communities and cause hurt in communities that are already torn apart by this dreadfully conceived and bad policy.”
He voiced relief that local people had fought off the Toft Hill and Moorsyde proposals which he said would have created a “wind farm landscape,” with communities “saturated” with turbines, if developed alongside Barmoor.
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