Plans for a wind turbine close to Northumberland’s answer to Stonehenge have been thrown out by the government.
The proposal less than two miles from the 4,000-year-old Duddo Stone Circle has been rejected by minister for communities and local government Greg Clark.
The decision follows a lengthy planning battle which saw the government opt not to defend a planning inspector’s decision to give the turbine the go-ahead in the High Court, following a protest led by a cross-party group of North East peers and the Bishop of Newcastle.
The guardian of the stone circle has spoken of her delight that visitors’ enjoyment of the scheduled ancient monument will not be impacted by a turbine, but voiced her regret that the proposal which attracted 90 objections has proved so divisive in the community.
Scottish company 3R Energy Solutions initially applied to Northumberland County Council for planning permission for a 74m 800 kilowatt machine at Shoreswood Farm, Ancroft – near Berwick, and home of William Jackson.
Its bid attracted 14 letters of support. Yet the proposal faced the 90 objections from residents, three parish councils and the county’s archaeologist, amid fears over the proximity to the stones.
The monument, also known as The Women or the Singing Stones, is made up of five large blocks of stone, created in the Neolithic period.
The reasons for its creation are shrouded in mystery and the site is visited by 6,000-9,000 people each year from all over Britain and overseas.
The county council’s planning committee refused the application as advised by officers in 2012.
However the applicants appealed and a planning inspector overturned the decision following a site visit.
Claire and Frank Dakin, owner of the farm on which the stone circle sits, lodged a High Court challenge against the inspector’s decision, with financial backing from locals.
A cross-party group of peers from the North East led by Baroness Joyce Quin, together with the Bishop of Newcastle, then lobbied the government on the scale of wind farm development in Northumberland, having read comments by Mrs Dakin in The Journal.
Before the High Court hearing, the government decided it was unable to legally defend the inspector’s decision and withdrew from the case.
The appeal was then referred to a new planning inspector although the minister for communities and local government was to make the final decision.
The inspector has now recommended that permission should be refused, and Mr Clark has agreed.
A letter sent on his behalf states: “The secretary of state is not satisfied that the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been addressed.”
Mrs Dakin said: “I am very relieved that the experience of visiting the Duddo circle will not be spoilt by the existence of the proposed turbine and I am sorry that the community has been put through a divisive process.
“North Northumberland is a small community, everybody knows each other well and we encounter one another in our daily lives.
“The policy that has been applied in this area which wind farm developers have sought to take advantage has led to a deep division in our community and that is a tragedy for our generation.
“I do not feel triumphant. However I am pleased the Shoreswood wind turbine is not going to go ahead.”
Don Brownlow, clerk to Duddo Parish Council, added: “There is great relief that, three years after this scheme was unanimously refused by Northumberland County Council on the advice of planning officers and heritage experts, that the planning inspectorate and minister have finally found in favour of that local decision.
“We are very grateful to Frank and Clare Dakin, the Duddo Stone Circle landowners, and to Duddo Parish Council, the Northumberland and Newcastle Society, the CPRE, our new MP, the former Bishop of Newcastle, the cross-party group of peers and the hundreds of local people and visitors who have supported the campaign to preserve the setting of the Duddo Stones.”
Mr Jackson said he did not wish to comment without having fully considered the decision or spoken to his legal adviser.
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