‘A turbine here would be a crime’

Protestors against the Follions turbine cheer after plans were rejected
Protestors against the Follions turbine cheer after plans were rejected

Plans for a single wind turbine near Thropton were unanimously refused at a planning meeting which saw more than 90 members of the public turn out in protest.

There were cheers of delight and a huge round of applause as the application to site the 78-metre structure at Follions Farm, Weststeads, was rejected against planning officers’ recommendations on Tuesday night.

More than 100 letters were submitted against the application and four parish councils, Northumberland National Park and the Campaign to Protect Rural England were also against the scheme.

Feelings were so high that a large crowd turned up at County Hall to hear the planning and environment and rights of way committee meeting discuss the proposal, with the public and press spilling over into seats normally reserved for councillors.

Speaking afterwards, Sylvia Thompson, who lives at Trewitt Steads, the closest property to the site, said: “Thank God for that. It would have been the first thing we would see when we walked out of the house.

“We are very pleased with the decision and thank everyone who helped to get it refused.”

Zoe Frais, spokeswoman for Fight Follions Windfarm, added: “We are absolutely ecstatic with the decision.

“We were thrilled with the number of people who turned out to show their support at the meeting.”

Speaking in objection, Tim Steinlet, who owns Burnfoot Holiday Cottages at Netherton, said: “A YouGov survey has said that people are 43 per cent less likely to visit a scenic area with a wind turbine.

“If our bookings reduced by 43 per cent it wouldn’t just reduce turnover, the business would collapse and the bank would repossess.” County councillor Steven Bridgett also spoke in objection to the plans. He said: “To build a wind turbine here would be a crime. Not a crime in the normal sense, more’s the pity, not a crime in which the police could be called to haul away the perpetrator in handcuffs.

“But a crime nonetheless against the health and wellbeing of a population, carried out against the will of the people and their elected representatives, in order to tick a few boxes and enrich a handful of eager beneficiaries.”

There were rounds of applause for the objectors from members of the public after they spoke.

Coun John Taylor proposed the motion to refuse the application.

He said: “I know this part of Northumberland well. I have ridden over it, driven around it, worked in it and farmed on it and I know what the landscape is like.

“The interesting thing is the height of the turbine. If it was six feet it wouldn’t interfere with the landscape but at this height it does, very much so.”

Coun Trevor Thorne seconded the proposal and said that a study into the effect of windfarms on tourism needs to be looked at.

He added: “It would be very difficult for this turbine to fit into the landscape. It would stick out like a sore thumb.

“I would like to include the effect on tourism as a reason for refusal but we haven’t done our homework on that yet.

“It is really important that we carry out this piece of work. It is a chunk of our policy that really needs to be filled.”

Chairman of the committee, Coun Paul Kelly, also refused the plans and thanked members of the public for turning up to hear the outcome of the application.

l At the same meeting, plans to store huge quantities of waste power station ash as part of a major leisure development near Widdrington were also approved. See the Gazette website for the full story.