Blot on the landscape

THE go-ahead for the Middlemoor wind farm could open the floodgates for more turbines across north Northumberland and beyond, with dire implications for its tourist industry, it has been warned.

Dismayed objectors claim the approval of the 18-turbine scheme, despite serious concerns over impact on the landscape, may signal the green light for others still in the planning pipeline to be granted.

Planning inspector Alan Novitzky, who presided over a public inquiry held in Alnwick last November, said any negative visual effects caused by the 400-foot-high structures would be outweighed by the renewable energy aspects.

But Alnwick district councillor John Taylor, who fought against Middlemoor from the outset in 2003, said: "The inspector has said that the energy policy outweighs the landscape, at the same time the Government is telling us our future economy is based on tourism.

"They are trying to tick so many policy boxes, but they are in direct conflict with one another.

"What this decision does is open up the entire landscape and increases its market value, because some people who own farms will see this as a licence to print money.

"What is disturbing is that the permission for Middlemoor has now been submitted as a core document in favour of a wind farm application in Tynedale. This could also prove to be a green light to justify other applications, such as Wandylaw."

The decision has also sparked an extraordinary meeting of Berwick Borough Council's planning committee next Thursday, to discuss its implications for Wandylaw, where 10 more turbines are planned.

Legal advice will be given to councillors in private, but the outcome will be discussed at a planning meeting on September 2.

Pressure group Save Northumberland's Environment (SANE) also held a meeting on Tuesday night.

Member Robert Thorp, who farms right on the edge of the Middlemoor site at North Charlton, said: "A political decision has been taken, where the landscape impact has been practically ignored, and the whole area is going to be blighted.

"It's bad news for tourism and all those local businesses which have expanded to support the visitor industry."

Mr Thorp added that the issue of impact on the air defence radar at nearby RAF Brizlee Wood was still unresolved.

He said: "The buck has effectively been passed to the Ministry of Defence, which made it clear at the inquiry that unless the laws of physics can be changed, you cannot put turbines this close to a radar station.

"How much political pressure will now be put on them remains to be seen."