Opposition blows up over windfarm scheme

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OPPOSITION is mounting to a controversial windfarm plan.

On Monday night, members of Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council voted in majority against Peel Energy’s application for 13 126.5-metre-high turbines between Widdrington and Hadston.

It followed Widdrington Village Parish Council deciding to go against the plans on Thursday night.

And consultation with residents throughout East Chevington parish has shown that the majority of people who gave feedback are not in favour of the application.

Peel has said that the turbines are the first phase of the wider Blue Sky Forest (BSF) project, led by the Widdrington Regeneration Partnership (WRP) for leisure and tourism facilities, and the company adds that turbines ‘will play an important role in stimulating the wider BSF development proposals’.

However, objectors have questioned this and Widdrington Station and Stobswood councillor Shelly Willoughby said there is confusion about the situation.

“WRP says that Peel Energy is not part of the BSF scheme, but the distinct impression you get from Peel is that it is an integral part of it. I still do think that a lot of people feel they are being held to ransom – you either accept that or don’t get this,” she said.

In a letter of objection from East Chevington Parish Council to the county council, one of the criticisms is that residents have been ‘misled’ by the application which councillors claim gives the impression that the windfarm is ‘essential to the success of the BSF project’.

Val Seddon, chairman of both WRP and Widdrington Village Parish Council, claimed that assurances had been given by landowner UK Coal during a meeting last week that the wider BSF project could go ahead without the turbines.

She added that members of her parish council which were eligible to vote on the scheme decided against the windfarm bid because there were already too many turbines in the area.

However, not everyone is against the plans.

Widdrington Station and Stobswood parish councillor Jacek Juszczyk said: “I take the application on its merits. I’m ignoring BSF and whatever else that may be developed from that because there is no guarantee that any of it will take place until such time as a plan is agreed with the county council.

“At this moment in time what we have got is an application for 13 turbines by Peel Energy and I’m in favour of it. I like wind turbines, I think they look great and it is not going to impact that much on local people. It is in the middle of fields, a long way away from any major centres of people living.”

Yesterday, the Herald got comments from both Peel Energy and Harworth Estates, which is the property division of UK Coal.

Patrick Keogh, Peel’s development manager, said: “We accept that some people do not like wind turbines and others would prefer they were not built near them.

“As well as being a catalyst for the wider Blue Sky Forest development, the windfarm presents wider benefits including a substantial community benefit fund of up to £78,000 per annum, up to £1.95million over the 25-year life of the scheme, targeted at communities impacted by the development.

“In addition there is potential for local people and organisations to own a stake in the windfarm and benefit from the generation revenue through a co-operative. It will also bring opportunities for local employment during construction and operation.”

Eddie Peat, director of Harworth Estates, said: “The windfarm will provide an essential element that will give the BSF scheme the carbon neutral credentials that are required to take such a development forward. Unlike other alternatives, the windfarm has the potential to provide a secure source of low carbon energy and offset the carbon impact of the other facilities and the transport that will bring visitors to the site.

“The windfarm represents the first major development on the site and introduces new access roads and an electrical connection to the national grid. It will provide infrastructure in its own boundary. The other elements of the project will however need to define their own infrastructure requirements on top of this in a co-ordinated way to minimise their cost but also to ensure that there is no conflict between the various elements of the scheme, such as by impacting traffic on local roads. We continue to work closely with the County Council to ensure that this happens.

“In parallel to supporting Peel Energy with the windfarm application, we are making progress with a number of developers who want to bring forward other elements of the BSF vision. They have been encouraged by our partnership with the local communities and progress on the windfarm application so far. The windfarm scheme is seen as complimentary to other elements of the project.

“Details of the developers and their ideas cannot be released at the moment because we are in early confidential discussions. We will introduce them to our partners in the local community and publicise their proposals as soon as we are in a position to do so. We are very encouraged by the developer interest in the project which means that BSF will get a significant boost at a time when this part of south east Northumberland has been badly impacted by the closure of Alcan’s smelter.”