Massive wind turbines in Northumberland have “dramatically” and “abruptly” interrupted views of the county’s attractions and landscapes, a council report claims.
Views from lookouts such as Ros Castle, Cataran Hill and Preston Tower, and of attractions like Dunstanburgh Castle and the county’s stunning coastline, have been disrupted by the construction of 28 125m turbines near Alnwick, the study finds.
The report also claims that the views have been effected to a “significantly greater degree” than suggested by the developers of the wind farms.
The study looks at how the impact of the county’s turbines compares to that envisaged by the developers before they were erected, listing a number of criticisms of the planning submissions in light of its findings, including that some have underrepresented the size of planned generators by 30 percent.
Two respected conservation bodies in the county have called for lessons to be learnt to prevent to prevent further “iconic tourist landscapes” being “scarred for decades.”
A body which represents developers has said the study concludes that “for the most part” projected impacts of wind farms were accurate and added companies seek to be good neighbours.
The report has been produced by local planning authority Northumberland County Council and looks at wind projects including the adjoining Middlemoor and Wandylaw schemes.
The report says the projects appear as one due to their proximity and yet the developer of the Wandylaw scheme gave “minimum” consideration to cumulative impact of the projects at the planning stage.
Furthermore, the developer of the Middlemoor scheme is said to have failed to consider Wandylaw at all when looking at cumulative impact, despite the latter already being at the scoping stage when drawings were done.
The study states: “It is almost impossible to assess the effects of Wandylaw and Middlemoor wind Farms separately, as reported in the respective ESs (environmental statements), due to the extent of their combined effects whereby the two wind farms effectively read as one from many viewpoints.”
The report also highlights the fact that the impact of the Middlemoor turbines on “iconic coastal heritage feature” Dunstanburgh Castle was not considered at the planning stage.
It concludes: “Middlemoor wind Farm (now seen in complete singularity with Wandylaw Wind farm) abruptly interrupts views from Ros Castle and Cataran Hill (as important historic sites located in part because of their lookout attributes) towards the coastal strip, with the line-of-sight to Dunstanburgh particularly affected.
“Vistas from Preston tower, again important for its look-out function, are dramatically interrupted by turbines from both wind farms, and in the opinion of this study, to a significantly greater degree than suggested within the ES.”
The study also identifies a number of criticisms of developers given how their delivered projects compare to how they were envisaged at the planning stage.
Photomontage and wireframe visualisations were said to “invariably present images which when observed in the field under-represented the scale of visual prominence of installed turbines by around 30 percent.”
Lester Sher, chair of the Northumberland and Newcastle Society’s Northumberland Environmental Policy Group, claimed his and other groups had long complained of such goings on.
He said: “The technical findings of the report directly identify the problems with photomontages and visual impact assessments in wind turbine planning applications which the society and other organisations have complained of for years.”
The society and the Campaign To Protect Rural England have called on the county council to ensure the findings of its report, and changes in government policy, are properly integrated in its emerging planning guidance for wind turbines.
A joint statement from the bodies states: “A failure to get this right will, like the Middlemoor/Wandylaw turbine complex, scar our iconic tourist landscapes for decades.”
RenewableUK’s director of policy Dr Gordon Edge said: “This study concludes that for the most part the projected impacts of wind farms were accurate once constructed.
“Where discrepancies have occurred the report lays no blame on the part of developers or anyone else, but simply advises on better methods for assessing future projects.
“The wind industry is constantly updating guidance, as we work hard to be good neighbours.
“We regularly receive feedback from a wide range of bodies, including county councils, which is helpful as it enables us to work even closer with communities which host clean energy projects”
A spokesperson for the county council said: “This report is one of many which have informed the development of the Northumberland Local Plan, and it is freely available in the studies and evidence reports section of our website. It has been very helpful in informing the policies in the Core Strategy.”
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