Decision day looms for windfarm applications

WINDFARM projects for Northumberland are moving a step closer with three bids going through the planning process.

On Tuesday, plans for four turbines at the Sisters site in Widdrington will be considered by Northumberland County Council’s Planning and Environment Committee, while an application has been submitted by Peel Energy for a 13-turbine windfarm between Widdrington and Hadston.

In addition, a proposal for a temporary anemometer mast to assess the area around Fenrother as a location for a windfarm has been formally presented.

All three bids have raised concerns among local residents, who are now gearing up to put their objections across.

The Sisters’ application would see four 126-metre-high structures erected on land west of Widdrington Manse, along with the construction of access tracks, a control building, underground cabling, a meteorological mast and a new access.

Planning officers are recommending approval of the Infinis proposal, saying the potential benefits of clean, sustainable, renewable energy from a local source will outweigh any impact on landscape and residential amenity.

And 17 letters of support have been submitted by residents.

However, the plans have generated 35 letters of objection, raising issues such as the need for the windfarm, visual impact, noise, shadow flicker, dust, scale, cumulative impact, traffic, health and tourism.

There are also concerns about the potential overbearing impact of the scheme on Widdrington Village, the proximity to the foot-and-mouth burial site and the effect on the nearby Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Widdrington Village Residents’ Association Chairman Dale Page said: “The views throughout the village are pretty much the same as they have always been, they are against this application.

“The two particular concerns that have come up consistently are visual impact and noise.

“The scheme is so close to the village – the distances involved are less than a kilometre, and as for noise, even Infinis accepts that the only thing we will hear if we open our windows at night are the windmills.

“I think there has also been a little bit of worry expressed after the windfarm fire at the Infinis site in Scotland. Given the distances involved, if that happened here there could be burning debris in the village.”

Mr Page said there are also concerns about the impact on wildlife.

Meanwhile, the Widdrington Regeneration Partnership (WRP), which was formed by local residents, has backed plans by Peel Energy for 13 turbines, up to 126.5metres tall, to be constructed as part of the Blue Sky Forest £200million regeneration project.

The windfarm would be the first phase of the scheme, installing the infrastructure for developments such as a golf course, sports academy, Olympic-sized swimming pool, outdoor adventure centre, artificial ski slope, holiday village, 4x4 driving, 300-bed hotel and water sports.

The applicant says it will reduce construction time for the rest of the project and save thousands of pounds in initial costs.

But not all are in favour of the plans.

Hadston resident Peter Kull, who is a member of the Broomhill, Hadston and Togston Against Windfarms group, said: “We have been blighted by opencast, blighted by foot and mouth – we don’t want to be blighted by wind turbines.

“They don’t pay for themselves, they hardly ever work and they are a blot on the landscape.

“The wider Blue Sky Forest application includes a golf course, a hotel and a holiday village. Nobody in their right mind will come to a hotel or play golf where you have got 13 turbines, 126.5metres high.

“I would like Northumberland County Council to put in some sort of clause which says that you can not start the wind turbines until other phases are in place because we do not want it to be a white elephant. When this project came forward a few years ago there was no mention of wind turbines.”

And ward councillor for Chevington with Longhorsley Glen Sanderson said: “I am disappointed because most people are not fans of windfarms and the case has not been made for their efficiency and effectiveness.

“I did attend a drop-in session with the developers and asked for more information for the exact location of the turbines, but I am still waiting to receive that information so until I see the actual application I can’t be more specific.”

Opposition is also mounting to moves towards a windfarm at Fenrother, near Longhorsley.

Energiekontor UK has applied to site a 60-metre-high anemometer mast for three years to gather a range of meteorological data, with a view to submitting an application for up to five turbines in the future.

Local resident Dr James Lunn, who is a member of the Fight Fenrother and Longhorsley Windfarm group, said: “This application is for a 60metre structure, yet the advice is that it is permitted because it is only temporary. This means that anywhere in Northumberland people can get permission for these huge structures to be dotted around. The council policy seems to be so skewed in favour of the windfarm companies and bends over backwards to help them and not the local community.

“There will be a huge visual impact because it is such a prominent site that must be seen by thousands of people on their way to work on the A1 or A697. Soon you are not going to be able to pass through Northumberland without seeing windfarms in every single direction.

“These companies are applying everywhere for these things. The application for the anemometer is 35 pages long, but makes reference to East Riding in North Yorkshire. It shows how these companies can put these applications together very quickly and almost cut and paste the information.”

The group will meet MP Sir Alan Beith next week to discuss its concerns.

It is also planning to spend up to £10,000 on a model to show the cumulative impact of windfarm plans across the county.