Next tussle over turbines

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THE latest battle against potential windfarm developments near Morpeth will take place next week.

An application by Wind Ventures for a test mast up to 70-metres high on land at the former Tranwell Airfield will be considered by members of the county council’s Planning and Environment Committee.

If the councillors go with the officer recommendation to approve the equipment, it will help the company to assess the suitability of the site for a four-turbine windfarm with a maximum height of 126m to blade tip.

But there have been 16 letters of objection from local residents and another from Action for Rural Morpeth (ARM), whose concerns include the principle of the development, the visual impact, noise and the impact on nature conservation.

The ARM group was set up to oppose TNEI Services’ windfarm plans for a field between Molesden and the East and West Edington Farms, which is only about a mile north of Tranwell Airfield.

In August, the committee granted planning permission for a test mast to be installed at the site, albeit by only one vote, and an application for wind turbines is expected in the coming months.

And in October, Energiekontor UK unveiled plans for a five-turbine windfarm at Fenrother, just south of Longhorsley.

A Fight Fenrother Windfarm group was subsequently formed.

Among the Tranwell Airfield mast application objectors, who live in nearby Tranwell and Gubeon Woods, are David and Gay Penn.

Their letter to the committee says: “The proposed site is too close to Tranwell Woods, which is a sensitive area, and the proposed mast goes against the conservation and improvement of life of the local population as any developer should respect the character of the existing woodlands.”

Some of the comments refer to a potential negative economic impact of having a mast in place.

For example, Susie Geoghegan said: “The placing of such a mast would deter those who wish to live in special executive housing and in such a unique quiet tranquil area from choosing Tranwell Woods if there was any hint of a windfarm on its doorstep.

“The area would naturally lose its appeal to executives, professionals and entrepreneurs.”

And the ARM letter includes the following: “We are concerned that the set-back distance between the proposed mast and surrounding residents will expose these residents to significant visual intrusion.

“This site’s proximity to a Site of Nature Conservation Importance, due to the scarcity of woodland of this scale and character in this part of Northumberland and to a tree preservation order over the whole area renders this site unsuitable for industrial and commercial developments of this nature.

“This mast proposal looks neither to conserve nor improve the quality of life of the local population and their local environment. Indeed it will achieve the opposite effect.

“Any housing development in this area would be required to comply with planning policy H7, requiring the developer to ‘respect the character of existing development of the woodlands’.

“Other types of development should therefore be held to at least the same standards and requirements.”

Despite these points, the report from planning officer Joe Nugent recommends approval for the mast – which would support meteorological equipment such as rainfall, pressure and temperature gauges, a data logger and a power source.

It says: “The mast would allow for the measurement and monitoring of wind speed and prevailing weather conditions and is not considered to give rise to any adverse impact on landscape or residential amenity.

“The proposed construction of the temporary meteorological mast is therefore considered to accord with national, regional and local planning policy.”

If given the go-ahead, Wind Ventures would be allowed to have the equipment in place for a maximum period of three years.