Wind of change fails to impress

REVISED plans for a windfarm on former mining land have failed to win over objectors.

In January, Peel Energy submitted a planning application to erect 13 turbines, up to 126.5metres tall, on land between Widdrington and Hadston as part of a multi-million Blue Sky Forest regeneration project for the area.

But the Herald reported in March that the Widdrington Regeneration Partnership (WRP), which is leading the leisure and tourism initiative, had withdrawn its support for the windfarm element when faced with opposition from local people and other turbine approvals.

Widdrington Village, Widdrington Station and Stobswood and East Chevington parish councils also spoke out about the plans.

And now Peel has amended its proposal to reduce the number of turbines to nine and incorporate habitat enhancement work for birds.

The changes aim to accommodate the aviation requirements of Newcastle Airport, increase the distance between the turbines and residential areas, provide foraging habitat for geese, swans and other birds, and protect hen harrier roosting sites.

The applicant says it has amended the plans as a result of consultation with communities around the proposed site.

Project Manager Annette Lardeur said: “This recent development has demonstrated that the process of stakeholder consultation in the planning process can result in meaningful changes to proposals, accommodating the needs of existing operations and delivering an improved scheme for local communities and the environment.

“The reduced number of turbines would still generate enough electricity to meet the average annual needs of over 10,500 homes, contributing to meet the nation’s shortfall in energy generation, and providing up to £1.35million of funding over the life of the scheme for communities to spend on local projects.”

However, opposition to the project remains strong.

Coun Val Seddon, who is Chairman of both the WRP and Widdrington Village Parish Council, says both organisations maintain their objections to the scheme.

“We know the proposal is to decrease the number of turbines from 13 to nine, taking away two from the north and two from the south of the site.

“However, despite that, the parish councillors really are opposed to any more wind turbines of that size within the local area,” she said.

“We have got the ones at Ellington, the Infinis ones will be 635metres from Widdrington Village and if Peel get permission Widdrington Village would be surrounded by wind turbines.

“That is a very bad thing and really, reducing the number from 13 to nine isn’t going to make much difference in that respect.

“We also feel that the environmental issues haven’t changed – this isn’t going to be any better for local wildlife.”

Coun Seddon said claims that the windfarm would assist the delivery of the Blue Sky Forest scheme by providing infrastructure were unfounded and it could actually jeopardise parts of the plan.

“Unfortunately, when we got the original application it was very obvious that the windfarm was not going to provide any infrastructure for Blue Sky Forest at all,” she said.

“The other thing is that we thought it would be incorporated in Blue Sky and activities would be happening around the turbine area. That sadly isn’t the case. The other developers seem to be rushing to avoid that area completely.”

She said: “The WRP has said that it does not support the Peel Energy application and does not view it as a genuine part of the Blue Sky Forest project.

“It isn’t going to add anything to the project and it will actually take away from it because if no developers will use that land it means it is not available for development for tourism.”

Coun Seddon said that work is continuing on Blue Sky Forest and planning applications could be submitted by the end of the year.

The tourism initiative aims to provide a number of leisure facilities, including golf courses, a sports academy, hotel, water sports, driving experiences, an adventure centre and holiday village.

The formal consultation period for the Peel Energy application is under way.