Concerns over community benefits from windfarm

FORMAL plans have been submitted for a Fenrother windfarm, but there are concerns about community benefits.

Energiekontor UK is seeking permission to site five turbines on land south of Longhorsley.

And as part of the scheme up to £45,000 a year in community benefit funds would be handed to the Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT).

However, the Fight Fenrother and Longhorsley Windfarm Group has hit out at the choice of recipient, suggesting that local parish councils or residents would be better placed to benefit those affected by the windfarm.

Chairman Dr James Lunn said: “I’m not very happy about this, but not surprised. I hope the council will take the view that the community is not being involved in this in any shape or form.

“Tritlington, West Chevington and Longhorsley parish councils have all said they would be interested in being involved in any community fund and they believed they would be involved.

“The guidance is that a community benefit fund should be for the local community. There is a local community in Fenrother. Although it has had its heart ripped out and parts of the community are no longer speaking to the landowners, there is still a community spirit and we would use the money on local projects to try to compensate for the losses we will have through this windfarm.

“I don’t think any of us look on Morpeth as our community. Certainly the information boards along the river and the Town Hall redevelopment done by the Greater Morpeth Development Trust are not classed as a benefit to us.

“The GMDT has never been involved in projects as far out of Morpeth as Fenrother and has no objective plans for any future projects in this area.”

Project Manager Sam Dewar said GMDT would be a worthy recipient and the only reason it was not revealed earlier is because legal agreements had not been signed.

“If you look on the Greater Morpeth Development Trust website it does cover a large area around Morpeth, including Fenrother and Fieldhead,” he said.

“We know that residents of Fenrother, Fieldhead and Longhorsley go to Morpeth on a regular basis and Morpeth is very much the central hub for local residents.

“The work that GMDT has done in all manner of things, such as working with the Environment Agency on flood alleviation schemes, improving footpath networks and refurbishing the Town Hall, is amazing.

“The shortlist process for the community fund recipient has been ongoing for a long time and when we sat down and went through the list it was clearly evident that GMDT would be the most worthy. It is an upstanding organisation and very well settled. It has the financial structure in place in order to receive funds with little or no re-structure.

“It is looking at projects for the next five, ten and 20 years. We know the windfarm can last 25 years so we are conscious of giving the fund to a body that can use the money for the community not just today, but in the longer term.”

GMDT has confirmed that it would be willing to handle the funds, but stated that it has no position on windfarms.

Chairman Doug Phillips said: “We have responded to say that we would indeed be interested in doing so although it is important that we make it clear we are neither in favour nor against wind farms.

“It is for the company to explain why we were approached, but we do believe we would be an appropriate organisation to handle any potential funding based on the strong track record we have established and the expertise we have built up over the

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past seven years in developing and managing projects for the benefit of the community in and around Morpeth.

“If the Trust is asked to manage this fund we would ensure we set up accountable procedures to ensure any projects and schemes people or organisations wish to put forward for the benefit of their localities would be carefully and appropriately considered.”

Mr Dewar said an application for the turbines has been submitted to Northumberland County Council and is awaiting validation before the formal consultation process begins.

A petition of more than 260 names has already been collected against the bid, but Energiekontor has been seeking support in Morpeth town centre this week, urging people to write letters backing the scheme.

Mr Dewar said: “We are getting about 60 to 70 percent of people supporting the windfarm and a lot of people are writing letters of support.

“We wouldn’t be wasting our time with a windfarm if we didn’t feel there was support for the application. People who live locally to the windfarm do actually support wind energy and our proposal for Fenrother.”