Victory in wind farm fight

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A WINDFARM villagers fear would devastate the countryside has been rejected by county councillors.

The scheme at Park Head, Wingates, near Longhorsley, now goes to a public inquiry, which will report to a Government minister as energy company RES UK and Ireland appealed last November against the council’s failure to determine the matter earlier.

County Planning and Environment Committee members on Tuesday heard the company had failed to provide adequate background and they unanimously refused permission because of lack of information.

The company wants to build nine 127metre turbines – twice the height of Durham Cathedral – surrounding Rayburn Lake to generate 16.2MW to 27MW.

Objectors say these would dominate the landscape and tower over grade I listed Netherwitton Hall, one of the finest early Georgian buildings in the North.

They believe blade tips spinning at 180 miles an hour would kill birds, notably some of the several hundred whooper swans for which the lake is a regionally important haven.

They also fear the large concrete bases could affect the lake and water supplies, and that vibration from turbines would drive away burrowing animals. Construction work would scare off protected red squirrels and otters, they argue.

The small community of Wingates is also the subject of an application by Novera Energy for six turbines – due to be considered at the next committee – and two scoping proposals from other companies.

Local county councillor Richard Dodd told the committee the village would be “fenced in” if all the projects went ahead. The lake was very important and should be protected.

Coun John Taylor said historian GM Trevelyan, whose family owned the Wallington estate, had dubbed Northumberland the land of far horizons, but they were being lost.

John Trevelyan, of Netherwitton Hall, which was built by his family in 1696, said: “This application has divided the local community between those that want them on their land due to the financial benefit and those that would have to suffer the disturbance and damage that they would cause to humans and wildlife.”

An industrial designer, he said blade noise could not be predicted because the design had not been revealed.

His wife Anne-Marie said: “I do not want to watch my precious and unique community slowly dying off because small businesses are unsustainable as a result of the impact of giant turbines in the wrong place.”

Objectors Paul and Heather Leatherland said: “We are looking at the industrialisation of what is for Northumberland its most precious resource.”

Taken with other proposals, they envisaged “a truly horrendous industrial landscape.”

Councillors received 120 objections to Park Head and 173 expressions of support.

Most expressions of support were brief letters backing turbines as good for the planet.

Planning officer Frances Wilkinson recommended refusal.

She reported: “The size and scale of the turbines are beyond that which the landscape can comfortably absorb.

“Widening of roads to accommodate the abnormal loads will lead to a loss of rural character and there is concern about the impact of traffic on Longhorsley.

“There is a lack of information on grid connection and impacts on wildlife.

“There is concern about the location of some of the visualisations used and the proximity of the turbines to houses with the resulting impacts from noise and shadow flicker and on health.

“There will be a negative impact on local businesses.”

An independent study commissioned by the council concluded that the company’s report was “seriously deficient” in the areas of landscape and visual impact, ecology, aviation and noise.

Ecological information needed included details of otters, water voles, red squirrels, bats, great crested newts, white-clawed crayfish and barn owls.

The committee heard RES had submitted additional detail on wildlife, but more was required and English Nature still objected to the scheme.

The area, described as a plateau of upland fringe, is four miles from the National Park. The company’s report predicted the effect on views from the Simonside Hills would be significant.

Hoteliers Victoria Fyffe and Michael Townsend, of Embleton, and Alison Culverwell, of Rennington, wrote near-identical letters expressing confidence turbines would not harm their businesses.

They said: “In my experience, tourists visit Northumberland for its pristine natural environment and the best way to preserve that is by the wholehearted support of renewable power generation.”

Brian Newcombe wrote: “If this is the scale of the opposition to a windfarm in an area to which nobody, apart from a few fishermen and pheasant shooters go, what chance is there of similar developments getting passed anywhere?”