Villagers say no to turbine plans

A NEW residents’ action group is calling for a pause on windfarm decisions as locals give a resounding ‘no’ to the latest turbine plans.

Energiekontor UK held two exhibitions last week to present its plans for a five-turbine windfarm at Fenrother, just south of Longhorsley.

The company is still investigating the site and is expected to submit a met mast application in the next few weeks for surveys, but already locals are outraged at the proposals, with more than 160 names gathered on a website petition against the bid.

A total of 117 people attended the exhibitions, but the developer says that just 43 people filled in feedback forms. Of those 30 (70 per cent) were against the proposal, nine (21 per cent) were in support, and four (nine per cent) were unsure. After the exhibitions, four people emailed the company to voice their support.

However, members of the newly formed Fight Fenrother Windfarm group say that in an exit poll from the exhibitions, 79 per cent were against the development and just five per cent were in favour, with 16 per cent undecided.

And campaigner Dr James Lunn, who is leading the group, said there could have been even more objection if people had been given more notice of the events, or had time to attend.

“The developers have given ten days notice for an exhibition of something they have been planning for five-and-a-half years,” he said.

“The first the community heard about this was a few weeks ago and we are annoyed at the time-scale we have had to arrange time to go to these discussions.

“There were two meetings in the same week over not particularly long hours in a rural community where a lot of people get home late and a lot of older people don’t want to go out in the dark.

“They should have been arranged a few weeks apart, with one on a Saturday, and people should have been given more warning. It didn’t serve as consultation.”

Since the turbine plans were revealed in the Herald earlier this month, about 40 people have joined the action group. They say the Fenrother turbines will be more than six times the height of the Angel of the North and would create an “environmental disaster” due to disruption and disintegration of community life.

Members have been meeting similar residents’ organisations across the county and now they are calling on Northumberland County Council to halt progress on windfarm applications until a full countywide debate can take place.

“We are going to be working in the next couple of weeks to set up a strategic plan and sort out what we are going to do,” said Dr Lunn.

“We will fight on two fronts — one is against the Fenrother development and the other is about the turbine triangle around Morpeth, from the west of Morpeth to Alcan and up to Holy Island.

“We are trying to have regular meetings with other groups because if this windfarm doesn’t go ahead others will on other people’s doorsteps.

“Our aim is to get a pause on the planning process across the county to take stock of people’s views. It is our county, not the planners’, and we need to take stock and decide the best way forward as a county, as opposed to planning officers seeming a soft touch.”

The group has met county councillor for the area Glen Sanderson to outline its concerns and will be seeking meetings with local parish councillors.

Fenrother Project Manager Sam Dewar said that assessments are still to be completed for the site and no final decisions have been made about the height of the turbines.

“This first wave of exhibitions was to introduce the scheme. The project is very much at an early stage and has yet to be fully assessed by our consultant team,” he said.

“This will be happening over a number of months where detailed assessments will be undertaken, covering a wide range of different topic areas.

“The turbine height of 126.5m is indicative at this point and until these assessments have been undertaken the tip height will not be finalised. When it reaches planning submission a maximum height will be submitted and it is usual practice that specific turbine details are submitted post decision.”

He added that the site is within a wind power Area of Search in the Morpeth Local Plan, which was adopted in February 2003, so residents should not be surprised at the interest.

“Obviously the proposal will still require to satisfy strict criteria, however it does demonstrate how long the area has been earmarked as a potential for windfarm development and been in the public domain over eight years,” he said.

“These are all public documents and people living in the area should have been aware of the existence of this policy since 2003, and in essence, the potential for land in this area to be considered for windfarm development.”