BATTLE lines are being drawn over plans for a rural windfarm as hundreds of letters of support are submitted.
Energiekontor UK has now formerly lodged an application with Northumberland County Council to erect five 126.5metre-high turbines on land at Fenrother, near Longhorsley, saying they will help to meet the region’s energy needs.
But the proposal has met with fierce opposition from local residents, who have collected a petition and written objection letters against the project, and a Fight Fenrother and Longhorsley Windfarm group has been formed.
However, the applicant has also been collecting signatures in support and so far 329 letters backing the plans have been submitted.
Project Manager Sam Dewar said: “Last week the local planning authority received 329 letters of support. In addition to this I have been receiving emails and phone calls from members of the local community who are expressing their support for the scheme.
“We are still actively engaging with established community groups exploring a number of avenues for further community pledge recipients.
“We expect further support in the coming weeks prior to our planning committee meeting.
“It cannot be denied that there is support for this scheme and it should not be ignored. The small minority of objectors do not represent the community as a whole and this is something we are very keen to demonstrate.”
The company says the proposed turbines off Fenrother Lane would comply with the council’s spatial strategy, which identifies the site as suitable for a medium-sized windfarm.
It says the site largely falls in a wind area of search and turbines would be positioned at least 800 metres from homes, while the land could still be farmed during construction and when the windfarm is in operation.
Several local contractors could be employed in building the turbines and locally sourced materials, such as stone, could be used during construction.
Mr Dewar said: “We have presented a very persuasive argument for windfarm development in our planning application and I’m confident the council will see the advantages on offer and give its backing for the project.
“Fenrother, which falls within the regional and local allocation in terms of planning, has been identified as an ideal location for a windfarm due to many contributory factors.
“Power produced by the site will not only be limitless, but also clean and environmentally friendly.
“People are not only seeing the importance of using power supplied from renewable sources, but recognising that windfarms have to be developed to provide this power in the future.”
The company has confirmed that a Community Fund would be set up with the Greater Morpeth Development Trust if the windfarm goes ahead and up to £45,000 a year could be handed over.
However, local resident and Chairman of the Fight Fenrother and Longhorsley Windfarm group Dr James Lunn disputes many of the applicant’s claims.
He said only 40 per cent of the turbine site is in an area of search, the regional spacial strategy refers to an area east of the site and the planning policies used are out of date.
Dr Lunn also raised doubts about the letters of support.
“The letters of support were collected on Morpeth high street by the Yes to Wind group and the transcript of one of the sales pitches forms part of our objections,” he said.
“People who signed these letters may be surprised to find that these letters will end up publicly available as part of the support for the plans. The sales pitch was done by people not from this area and they didn’t seem to know anything about Fenrother.
“On our online petition 307 people have signed against the windfarm. People have felt strongly enough to sign the petition, but I think it comes across more strongly if people write individual letters.
“I think it is far more important when people write individually to express their own comments and take the time to do that.
“I know of 70 to 80 individual letters of objection being sent, but the number is probably significantly higher than that. These are individual letters, not some pro-forma letter.”
He added: “I can’t foresee this application being heard by the council in its current form. It needs extensive parts of it to be re-written before it can feasibly be heard.”
The formal consultation period for the plans is ongoing.