‘A soft touch’ for windfarm plans

A FULL investigation of windfarm demands on Northumberland has been called by a county councillor.

Chevington with Longhorsley member Glen Sanderson says there are growing fears among the public that Northumberland is being seen as a soft touch for turbine applicants, with concerns the county is shouldering a greater burden than the rest of the country.

Now Coun Sanderson plans to have a detailed review of the issue as Chairman of the Communities and Place Scrutiny Committee.

“There is an increasing call for a debate about whether Northumberland is getting more than its fair share of wind turbines,” he said.

“I’m planning to have a full discussion on the planning situation for this because it affects the whole county.

“On the face of it we are certainly getting more than our fair share of applications and the time has come for us to take a long hard look at whether we are being over-burdened by applications compared to other parts of the UK.

“There is a high degree of anger and concern that Northumberland is being targeted as a soft option and we need to know whether that is actually the case or whether we are being treated fairly. Until we have a full discussion we don’t know.

“This is a big issue so there is a need for a sensible debate about it.”

The calls follow a decision by members of Northumberland County Council’s Planning and Environment Committee on Tuesday to restate their objection to plans for a nine-turbine windfarm at Park Head, between Netherwitton and Wingates.

The proposal is due to go to a public inquiry next month after applicant RES argued that the council failed to determine the plans for the 127metre-high turbines within 16 weeks.

In January councillors resolved to refuse consent due to a lack of information that prevented full assessment of the scheme’s impact, but they were asked to reconsider the issue following the submission of extra details and discussions with the applicant.

However, a report from planning officers this week concluded that there is still insufficient information to enable a full assessment of noise impact, while proposals for ecological mitigation and enhancement have still not been formally submitted. There are also concerns about inadequate bat surveys.

Members confirmed they were minded to refuse permission for the windfarm over the lack of details, as well as the potential impact on the Grade 1 listed Netherwitton Hall, unacceptable harm to the landscape and impact on residential amenity.

Concerns also remained about the safe operation of the airport radar if the plans were to go ahead.

The public inquiry is expected to start on June 29. The application has attracted 120 letters of objection from local residents and 173 letters of support from the wider area.

Councillors also agreed that they would visit Wingates Moor in light of a BT application for three 121metre-high wind turbines there.