Alan Castle: A sure way to put the wind up us country folk

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NO one can dispute one fact in the great wind turbine debate that seems to be raising its head nearly every week in the news and letters columns of the media.

That is that wind power, along with that of the sea, is the cleanest and probably safest method we have of producing energy as the world faces the decline in fossil fuels.

If you could build enough giant turbines, they would probably cover Great Britain from end-to-end. Then you would, I understand, still not have enough power to supply the needs of the British Isles.

The argument comes when those who want to erect the giant turbines in one spot or another apply for planning permission.

Rightly, I believe, people protest. Views that have been there for centuries will be changed for ever; places chosen on land for a wind farm are usually in open, exposed countryside where the wind blows the most consistent and powerful.

Open and exposed generally entails hills or ridges throughout the country.

According to figures on the Renewables UK website, which describes itself as the voice of wind and energy, I discovered that according to their data 16 turbines have been erected in Northumberland between August 1992 and July 2011, There were a further 13 under construction at Lynemouth starting in October last year.

But the most worrying or exciting feature, depending on your views, is that a further 96 are consented turbines, ranging from single to 18 spread through the country from 2003 to 2011. I admit I do not know what has gone ahead, was has not or has been withdrawn. The site does not explain.

A report by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), a government think tank, said they remained ‘cautiously optimistic’ that wind can play a significant contribution to the zero carbon energy production for Britain. Britain is now the biggest off-shore generator, producing as much as the rest of the world put together.

But costs of building the farms have doubled due to spiralling prices for steel and the drop in the value of the pound. Running costs are also increasing.

The report found that costs have risen for all kinds of generation but off-shore wind farms remain by far the most expensive – 90 per cent more than fossil fuel generators and 50 per cent more than nuclear.

Another fear is that the present coalition government seems intent on relaxing planning rules which would appear to give a presumption for developments to go ahead.

This county is, and always will be, a tourist spot. It is probably now its main source of income which brings in millions. What the visitors wants is to enjoy the unspoiled countryside with its wonderful vistas.

They do not want hillsides and views blocked or invaded by turbines and locals do not want them in their back yard.

HOLIDAY traffic has brought chaotic conditions to parts of the Alnwick road system these last few days.

Trying to get in or out of town or to your place of work or just to a meeting has taken twice, sometimes three, times as long.

The main problem seems to be situated around the Alnwick War Memrorial where hundreds, maybe thousands, have daily headed for Alnwick Castle and the Garden, while others have headed for the town centre.

So much traffic has been trying to turn down and get out of Denwick Lane that long queues have built up, causing snarl-ups on approach roads.

I believe the problem is the roadworks on the A1. Before they started there used to be signs pointing motorists up the main road to the Denwick turn-off. Since the roadworks started there is no such sign, just an indication for Alnwick or for the A1 north.

Therefore, all the Garden and Castle traffic heads towards the town centre. A simple sign on the A1 (if permitted) might just be the answer.

FINALLY, a note to the serf who penned the excellent letter in last week’s Gazette.

I like your style. Keep it up.

PS: The pen has always been mightier than the sword.