Windfarm bid is blown away

Fenrother  met mast before and after it fell down.

Fenrother met mast before and after it fell down.

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Fiercely-fought plans for a five-turbine windfarm at Fenrother have been unanimously rejected by councillors.

Energiekontor UK had applied for the 126.5m-high turbines for a field to the north of the hamlet near Longhorsley.

Fenrother  met mast before and after it fell down.

Fenrother met mast before and after it fell down.

But in a packed meeting at County Hall on Tuesday opponents gave a round of applause as the bid was thrown out by Northumberland County Council’s planning and environment committee.

Members backed recommendations from officers that the scheme should be refused on grounds of significant and unacceptable impact on the character of the local landscape, greenbelt extension, Northumberland National Park and residential amenity, as well as insufficient information on noise and archaeological matters, the potential effect on the safe operation of Newcastle Airport and a Ministry of Defence radar and the cumulative impact of turbines in the area.

The application attracted the largest number of representations of any scheme ever put before the committee, with 1,647 letters of objection submitted and 784 in support.

In addition the Fight Fenrother and Longhorsley Windfarm Group, made up of local residents, submitted a 71,000-word dossier setting out its opposition and spent £6,000 compiling expert reports.

Chairman Dr James Lunn said: “We’re relieved and ecstatic. We expected to be successful in seeing this application turned down, but I don’t think we were expecting a unanimous vote against the proposal with very little debate.

“I think the councillors were quite clear.

“The sheer volume and quality of work that the community has done and put before the council has made it an awful lot easier and the councillors have obviously listened to us, which restores a lot of faith in the whole system.

“This has taken almost two years out of our lives and I don’t think the applicant realises how much turmoil it has made.

“It has created a huge divide in several communities, but for all the friendships and relationships we have lost, we have made more friends and better relationships and the community is stronger for it.”

The committee hearing followed a councillors’ site visit to the area and a public meeting in November when around 200 people turned out to voice their opposition to the plans.

Objections were also lodged by Longhorsley Parish Council, Tritlington and West Chevington Parish Council, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Ministry of Defence, among others.

Planning officer Joe Nugent reported that there were inaccuracies in some of the information provided by Energiekontor, with properties missed out of assessments of the site.

However, the applicant submitted further information to refute the claims and project manager Sam Dewar urged the committee to take it into account.

“There are a lot of inaccuracies within the report, one is that this is greenbelt land. It is not allocated greenbelt,” he said.

But Mr Nugent concluded that the benefits would not outweigh the harm done by the scheme.

Committee chairman Trevor Thorne said: “I feel that the opposition group in this particular instance has turned this application upside down and been very thorough.”

Coun Paul Kelly said: “The quality of the arguments presented by the Fenrother action group has been significant. It has been persuasive.”