Airfield windfarm campaign takes off as objections grow

Esther Ridley, Penny Norton, Mike Sharp, Ginny Teasdale and Anna Sill are saying no to wind turbines at Tranwell.
Esther Ridley, Penny Norton, Mike Sharp, Ginny Teasdale and Anna Sill are saying no to wind turbines at Tranwell.

THE campaign against plans for a windfarm on the edge of Morpeth is gathering momentum.

Mitford and Meldon parish councils have joined Stannington and Whalton in objecting to Wind Ventures’ proposal for four turbines up to 126 metres-to-tip height on the former Tranwell Airfield.

The recently formed Tranwell Windfarm Action Group (TWAG) held a successful public meeting in Stannington Village Hall last Thursday, which was attended by about 100 people.

And now Guy Opperman MP, whose Hexham constituency includes the site, has voiced his concerns about the impact of having a windfarm in that location.

“There is no question this windfarm would have a significant and unacceptable cumulative and adverse impact on the communities around it,” he said.

“The proposed development would have a significant negative impact on the landscape, local residents and our tourism industry.

“As a big supporter of building new homes on the brownfield former St Mary’s site, I am concerned this could be put at risk if this windfarm went ahead, which would not be in the interests of the county.

“Given this area already makes a huge contribution to our energy needs, through both renewables and opencast, I think it is unfair and unreasonable to push another four 126-metre turbines on this community.

“Whilst this is a matter for the county council, and as an MP I have no role in the planning process, I am very clear I am opposed to this development.”

Teams of volunteers have already leafleted the majority of households in the area and surrounding villages to make people aware of the application, as a number of residents did not know that it had been submitted to Northumberland County Council.

TWAG has made it clear that it is not against windfarms in general, but it believes that the proposed site is unsuitable.

One of its members is Esther Ridley, who lives in Tranwell Woods.

She said: “It’s totally inappropriate for this area because of its cumulative impact. The opencast development could be happening later this year and the St Mary’s housing scheme is progressing, so adding a windfarm would be too much.

“It’s too close to properties, particularly the residents living close to the site who would have to see these giant structures out of their window every day, and we would also have to deal with noise issues.”

Fellow Tranwell Woods resident Ginny Teasdale added: “Residents here are united against the application.

“We’re very grateful to the parish councils as their support has been exceptional.”

Mitford Parish Council has given a few reasons for why it is objecting, such as cumulative impact and that the site is part of the extended Green Belt in the core strategy being drawn up by the county council.

Chairman Mike Sharp said: “These turbines will dominate the landscape and they could put some people off visiting Morpeth and surrounding areas.

“Given that tourism represents about 17 per cent of Northumberland’s economy, they could have a very damaging impact.

“We have already met our renewable energy target in spades and it’s time we look after our own interests in Northumberland.”

George Sanger, Vice Chairman of Meldon Parish Council, said: “The Tranwell Airfield windfarm planning application was unanimously opposed due to the visual impact of the development, the effect on the quality of life of residents adjacent to the proposed development, the cumulative impact of windfarm development in Northumberland, the effect on the Sites of Special Scientific Interest which are nearby and the effect on tourism.

“Also, the members were extremely concerned about the impact that this development would have on the rural road network when you take into consideration the 22,000 lorry movements for the vital flood defence work that would be forced to share the road access to the proposed wind turbine site with little or no benefit to local communities.”

Wind Ventures’ supporting planning statement states that the proposal should be regarded as an acceptable form of development and in comparison with some other wind energy proposals, it presents a more straightforward opportunity to provide renewable energy because it is located on a former airfield site.

The company has commissioned a series of assessments of the effects of the proposed development and the turbines would have the potential to provide renewable energy for some 4,200 homes and save some 7,800 tonnes of CO² each year. There would be an opportunity for local businesses to be involved in the construction process.

A spokesman added: “Wind Ventures has sought to engage with representatives of the local community including the parish councils of Stannington, Whalton, Mitford, Meldon and Morpeth Town Council. We have also had on-going discussions with county councillors representing the wards of Morpeth Kirkhill, Ponteland East and Ulgham.

“Town and parish councils were invited in 2012 to form a community liaison group to receive project updates and to input into the project design prior to finalising the site layout. In September 2012, Wind Ventures held three public exhibitions and distributed newsletters to over 1,800 local addresses.  

“All the feedback and comments received have been considered in designing the Tranwell Airfield proposal.

“Wind Ventures believes the site and proposed wind turbines offer an excellent opportunity to generate renewable electricity from the wind and the proposal will make an important contribution towards renewable energy targets.”

The proposal can be viewed at the relevant county council offices, telephone 01670 627040 for more information, and at www.northumberland.gov.uk (in the planning application search box, type Tranwell Airfield).

The authority has confirmed that even though the application notice consultation runs out later this month, comments will still be accepted by planning officers until the matter is determined by the planning committee. It will also hold a site visit, as well as a public meeting if necessary.

For more information about the campaign, visit www.tranwellwindfarm.co.uk