New battle against turbine

EMBATTLED villagers facing 25 years as neighbours of one windfarm have won their latest campaign – against a sheep farmer’s single turbine.

People at Wingates, near Longhorsley, were outraged by Jimmy Bell’s proposal for the same pasture where BT withdrew a planning application for three large turbines because of the effect on the community.

Last week, county planning committee members at Morpeth voted almost unanimously against Mr Bell’s project at East Wingates Farm, 322m north east of Wingates village.

Local member Steven Bridgett said: “My biggest concern about this application is what may be next. Is this application being used as a precursor to a future application on a bigger scale because here we are back at Wingates, which seems to be the centre of windfarm development for Northumberland.”

Agent and eco company MD Craig Sams told the meeting the ‘micro turbine’ would make the farmstead almost self-sufficient in electricity.

Councillors were concerned about the siting of the turbine on a ridge far from the farm buildings and its height on a lattice tower 30m tall instead of the maker’s basic 18m. Villagers have faced several wind energy applications totalling dozens of turbines in the past four years and are now watching the construction of a site for six 110m turbines for Infinis at Wingates windfarm.

Among 14 letters of objection to the micro turbine was a detailed critique of the application by villager John Thompson. He argued it was factually incorrect, breached planning policies, the visual impact would be unacceptable and there was no explanation of the need for a turbine of that scale.

He said Government figures revealed that Northumberland used an average of 183MW of energy, but had now approved 600MW of renewable power, including 300MW of windfarms.

University scientist Dr Gilbert Roberts pointed to new research from Stirling University on the effect of micro turbines on bats, indicating they halve the animals’ numbers. Planning officer Joe Nugent said the county ecologist, who raised no objections, knew the area well, but had made only a desk-top study of the application.

Coun John Taylor said councillors were becoming increasingly concerned about the impact on the landscape of turbines.

“The sad thing is that the young farmer’s record is probably deserving of some support for this, but the impact on the landscape increasingly has become abhorrent to a lot of us and you have got to bear that in mind,” he said.

Coun Ian Hutchinson said he hoped the farmer would come back with a more sympathetic proposal.

Members voted by 12 votes to refuse permission, with one abstention.