Wind topples weather mast

Fenrother mast
Fenrother mast

A 60METRE-HIGH met mast has failed its key task after coming down in strong winds.

Safety fears have been heightened among residents in Fenrother after the temporary structure toppled over during the night on Monday.

Energiekontor UK, which erected the mast to assess wind conditions in advance of an application for five 126.5metre-high turbines at the site, has removed the shattered equipment and cables for investigation.

But the company said it has no plans to abandon the plot and will either repair the mast and put it back, or replace it.

However, opponents say they are worried about the risk to walkers and horse riders and have reported the incident to the Health and Safety Executive to investigate.

Dr James Lunn, who leads the Fight Fenrother and Longhorsley Windfarm Group, said: “My concern with this mast is it is close to a permitted footpath, it is an unsafe structure and it has fallen down. Cables could easily have gone over the path and injured people.

“We are not happy with the company just putting the same thing up again. It is supposed to be a structure to withstand strong winds and it has failed. If the company wants to put up another mast it should be made to apply for planning permission again and much greater safety assessments must be done.

“Another aspect is that I have had 15 people contact me in an hour to say the mast has gone, which shows how many people noticed it. It was an intrusive structure and this shows it did have an impact when the county council said it wouldn’t.”

Another objector, Bob Forster, of Fieldhead, said the mast was a distraction to drivers on the nearby A697, particularly when it bent over on Monday.

“When talk of the windfarm came out my major concern was not only the close proximity to properties, including mine, but its proximity to the A697, which is a very dangerous road,” he said.

“I was concerned about drivers being distracted and by unlucky coincidence on July 4 my wife had a bad accident and was airlifted to hospital from the junction of Fieldhead and the A697. A minibus went into the back of her at 60mph and knocked her into the path of a van coming in the opposite direction. The driver must have been distracted by something. I’m not saying it was the met mast, but it just highlighted to me the danger of the road.

“On Monday we were coming back from Wooler and I was concerned that two cars in front of me seemed to be all over the road as we were getting to the Fieldhead turn-off. It then became apparent what they were distracted by, it was the fact that the met mast had gone into the shape of a banana.

“The next morning I found it had obviously collapsed. If that had come down on a walker or a farm worker, or anybody near it, it could have killed them.

“The Health and Safety Executive has been informed and I would hope that before anybody puts any other met mast in it is checked for safety.”

Coun Glen Sanderson, who represents Chevington with Longhorsley, was also concerned.

“My primary concern is the health and safety issue,” he said.

“I trust that the developer has considered the situation very carefully and is taking the steps necessary to ensure that local residents are kept safe and not put in any danger.

“I don’t think anybody was expecting this and it is certainly not the sort of thing that you would want to see happen.”

Energiekontor UK Project Manager Sam Dewar said the mast has been removed after suffering substantial damage, but there was no risk.

“It suffered a lot of damage a couple of nights ago and it has been taken down now to repair it. We had some severe winds over the course of two or three nights and we are removing the mast from the site temporarily to have a look at it,” he said.

“We still have permission for 36 months for a mast so once we have repaired the damage it will be going back up.

“There was no danger. It was in the middle of a field, there weren’t any grazing cattle in the field and the distances to the boundaries are over 100m. It was right in the middle of a grazing field so there was no footpath near it.”

Mr Dewar said that if the mast cannot be repaired another one will be erected instead. It will be of the same design and type to meet planning restrictions.

“We haven’t had any problems like this before, but this does happen with some of these masts. They are temporary structures so there is no kind of permanent foundation in the ground, which is why they often go in the middle of fields, safely away from any footpaths,” he said.

“They are substantial, but a turbine foundation is a completely different kettle of fish. It would be a permanent structure.”