Bid fails to put brakes on turbines

A MOTION which aimed to slow down the number of windfarm applications approved in Northumberland was dismissed last week after an opposition proposal was given the go-ahead.

Conservative councillor Glen Sanderson put forward a call to the county’s unitary council asking for it to ‘urgently’ engage in consultation with as many residents as possible to help formulate a new county-wide policy on renewable energy.

But the call, at a full meeting of Northumberland County Council, was rejected by most Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors by 33 votes to 16 after a new motion was put forward by Coun Tom Brechany.

Coun Sanderson said that the number of windfarm applications which have already been approved and are going through planning procedures are enough to meet the county’s renewables target for 2020.

He added that many felt the county would be justified in calling for a moratorium on approvals, but knew this was not legally possible.

However Coun Brechany’s motion said that the administration would consult the public on the renewable energy policy as part of its official work in the Local Development Framework (LDF), which is already under way.

And that was given the go-ahead.

But after the meeting, Coun Sanderson said that adding it in to the LDF is kicking it into the long grass.

He said: “I am pleased that so many individuals and organisations contacted me to support our call for an urgent review of this crucial issue.

“The Conservative motion was about recognising the immediate need to review the council’s outdated policies on accepting wind turbines. We will go on fighting for a fair and thorough hearing for residents.

“The amended motion passed by the Lib Dems kicks this issue into the long grass by wrapping it up in the Local Development Framework review, which has already taken four years and shows no signs of completion.”

He added: “By the time the council bureaucracy has gone through its gears, we may find that the face of the Northumberland countryside is unrecognisable.”

At the meeting Coun Andrew Tebbutt, executive member for corporate resources, said: “Anything other than going through the LDF process will not be sustainable.

“We have to deliver the right thing in the end.”

Supporting Coun Sanderson’s motion, Coun Steven Bridgett said: “It is not until you have a windfarm application in your community that you start to look at all the facts about windfarms.

“There have been six applications in my division and it is very difficult when communities feel that they are not listened to. We might not be able to have a moratorium but we can look at other policies which might be able to help them.”

He added that it shouldn’t be a political decision. “We should have cross-party unity on this,” he said.

Coun Tebbutt added that if consultation was not made through the LDF process the council could be liable to numerous judicial reviews which would cost the council, and ultimately taxpayers.