Wind Farm Inquiry Day 8 - Afternoon

ONE of Northumberland's longest-serving councillors has given his evidence to the Middlemoor inquiry, after years of being 'gagged' by local government rules.

Political heavyweight John Taylor, who is county member for Longhoughton division and district representative for Hedgeley Ward of Alnwick District Council, was finally able to break his silence on Friday afternoon on the plans for 18 turbines near South Charlton.

He said: "Because of the councillors' Code of Conduct, I have been effectively banned from making any representation at the North East Assembly or the County Council on the Middlemoor proposals.

"This is the first time that I have been able to comment from a personal point of view on the matter.

"As I have said previously, I have lived and worked in Northumberland for most of my life and I feel very strongly that these proposals will have the most detrimental effect on the landscape.

"You will hear very eloquent statements from experts on planning policies, landscape, effect on the environment, and many others. I am speaking on behalf of the people who elect me to represent them and have told me recently what their feelings are.

"There will be no local jobs created by these proposals after the construction phase.

"The financial benefits will be reaped far away from this district, and the people who have lived here, are living here and need to live here in the future, will be left with the residue and the probable clean up process when it is proven that this method of renewable energy is in the wrong place."

Coun Taylor, who is a former leader and currently deputy leader of Alnwick District Council, appeared on behalf of the eight parish councils in his county ward, an electorate of almost 4,000 people.

"The majority feel very strongly that the proposed Middlemoor wind farm will affect their quality of life and also the immediate local economy which is now substantially based on supporting a tourism and visitor industry," he said.

"It can be assumed that there are similar feelings and circumstances – as well as similar populations - across the wire boundary fence from the site related in Berwick Borough Council area.

"The feeling in the villages and hamlets of the Division against the application is very strong indeed.

"The proposed turbines will be 410' tall (125 metres) and will be visible for more than 30 miles in most directions.

"The necessity to build almost six miles of stone track to link the turbines for maintenance and construction purposes is bound to have an impact on the landscape, and the practical impossibilities of restoration when these monstrosities are on longer required beggars belief.

"The impact of underground power cables being laid during its construction period along a whole stretch of the A1 at its most dangerous points where accident rates and, indeed, deaths are very high indeed must be deplored.

And he added: "The blandishments being offered in terms of community benefit are regarded with a degree of cynicism among the public as the feeling is that these will not benefit the local populations in any form.

"It is almost patronising, in the extreme, to suggest otherwise.

"There is also real public resentment at large, industrial developments such as these being forced on the countryside by the Government and its agencies after the guise of so-called public consultation.

"This is not nimbyism rearing its head; it is ordinary people – farmers, villagers, householders and all who take such good care and preserve and maintain the countryside in which they live and share with all who use it.

"This is anti-democracy at its worst."

Farne Islands figures challenged by objector

Speaking earlier on Friday afternoon, South Charlton farmer Robert Thorp flagged up what he said was a glaring oversight in npower's environmental statement.

"The ES refers to the "few tourists" who sail round the Farnes," said Mr Thorp, who is a member of the National Trust's management committee for the islands.

"In fact, the figures show that in excess of 40,000 people do so each year, together with 40,000 who actually land on the islands themselves."

Report: Inquiry Day 8 - Morning