Villagers celebrate turbines victory

PEOPLE in the tiny village of Wingates, south of Rothbury, are celebrating their victory over a company that wanted to build more wind turbines there.

With six which were approved last year about to be erected, the last thing villagers wanted was three even larger ones from BT.

On Tuesday evening, they persuaded county council planning and environment committee members to reject the application at Wingates Moor Farm, by five votes to three.

But at the same meeting, people from Fenrother, south of Longhorsley, who hoped to head off a windfarm at the test-mast stage, failed and so are likely to face a lengthy battle of their own. About 100 campaigners from both camps filled the council chamber, some standing at the back, others sitting on steps for a couple of hours.

The Wingates victory was hard won. Leader of Wingates Not Windfarms, John Thompson, said after the decision: “It’s taken over my life for the last three years and I wouldn’t say the end’s in sight.

“I’m going to join with other people in Northumberland and try to fight national policy now so that other people don’t have to go through this.”

Mr Thompson said he expected BT would at least consider an appeal, but he believed the campaign would carry the day at any planning inquiry.

Council planning officers had advised approving the 121m turbines, with the issues raised deemed serious enough to warrant refusal.

But Coun John Taylor said he would be voting against, because the National Park Authority was objecting to the effect on the special qualities of the park, 2.5 miles away. It feared for tranquillity and views from beauty spots such as Simonside.

“There is another thing that worries me. Looking at the responses from the agencies which deal with the environment – I won’t name them, to save them embarrassment – no objections and I wonder really what are they there for if not to protect the environment?”

No objections were lodged by the Environment Agency nor Natural England, though the latter said the council should satisfy itself about the cumulative impact of turbines. There are 13 windfarms within 18.6 miles (30km).

Coun Jeff Gobin said river and wave power should be harnessed or turbines placed out at sea. “Why should we have to put up with these big monstrosities in Northumberland?”

BT head of renewables, Rob Williams, told the meeting the turbines would generate up to 7.5MW, enough to power all its exchanges in Northumberland.

In the past two years, the company had responded to concerns by reducing the number of turbines from four to three, moving their proposed position down Wingates Ridge and devising schemes to ease the impact.

Mr Thompson reminded committee members that when they had approved a Wingates windfarm last year they had said it would give grounds for refusing any more there.

Local member Coun Steven Bridgett said councillors had to protect the county and hand on a heritage of which their grandchildren could be proud.

“Windfarms will not allow us to do that. Therefore I implore this committee to refuse this application.”

The scheme attracted 34 letters of objection from 24 households, three letters from the WNW group and one objection from Northumberland Ramblers as well as from parish councils.