Floodgates have opened for windfarms, warns councillor

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A STREAM of wind turbine schemes is now on the way in Northumberland, says the man behind a failed attempt to curb them.

County councillors voted against Coun Glen Sanderson’s motion last Wednesday after a senior councillor condemned it as illegal.

But he stood by it afterwards and warned that the issue will not go away.

Executive member Tom Brechany said a planning policy change required evidence and public consultation.

Coun Sanderson told the meeting at County Hall: “I think virtually all of us are going to have a battle on our hands sooner or later.”

He said many places were in the firing line such as Berwick, Belford, Tranwell, Elsdon, Alnwick, Longhorsley and Chevington.

His motion called for the cumulative impact of the structures to be considered, a greater distance from homes imposed and called on the Government to slash drastically the subsidies to onshore wind turbines.

Labour and Liberal Democrats generally voted against, with Conservatives the main supporters. It was lost 40 to 13, with seven abstentions, including five from Tory councillors.

Labour Group Leader Grant Davey, who with local MPs had criticised the motion as undermining the renewables industry in the county’s south east, asked if the motion was illegal.

Chief Executive Steve Stewart replied: “It’s one thing to pass a motion, it’s another thing to implement it. Ultimately it would have to be decided by the courts.”

Coun Davey said the authority would then generate court costs which under the new Localism Act might fall on individual councillors. His motion that the question be put was passed and ended the debate.

Before that, Coun Sanderson had argued that the £400million national subsidy to turbines weighed most heavily on people with low incomes because their energy tariffs were high. And Northumberland suffered “the shame of some of the worst fuel poverty in the country”.

Coun Richard Dodd said: “We have a historic county –we’re destroying it.”

He said farmers were getting notes through their doors asking if they’d considered turbines, which brought laughter as it was said some take it up — a reference to Conservative Group Leader Peter Jackson, on whose farm a company sought planning permission for a turbine last year.

This year it was revealed he had been a party to talks about a turbine elsewhere on his land in 2010. He was absent from the council meeting.

Coun Sanderson said after the meeting: “Other councils are grasping the nettle on this issue and it’s high time that we did as well.

“We need to be more proactive and listen to what residents are telling us. New turbines should not be approved unless there is a stronger planning case than what is being used at the moment.

“I’m going to carry on the fight and I’ll continue to raise these important points.”

Coun Brechany said afterwards: “Coun Sanderson tried to make a political point and it was left to the Lib Dems on the executive – supported by some of his more sensible colleagues – to point out just how impractical, not to mention potentially illegal, his anti-wind power plans were.

“It’s telling that of the five Tories who refused to vote in favour, one chairs the North Northumberland planning committee and another chairs the planning committee for the west of the county.”