Conserve ‘the jewel in the crown of Northumberland’

The Middleton Burn Action Group which was set up three years ago to fight turbines near Belford.
The Middleton Burn Action Group which was set up three years ago to fight turbines near Belford.
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A proposed windfarm, which would have a ‘disastrous impact’ on a ‘lovely landscape’, has been thrown out by councillors this week.

At Tuesday night’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s planning and environment committee, the Belford Burn scheme was recommended for refusal.

Energiekontor UK Ltd’s proposals for nine 100-metre turbines on land to the west of Belford had sparked 500 objections, while Belford Parish Council and five other neighbouring parishes had also expressed concerns.

Four speakers reinforced the reasons for opposing the scheme with Chris Craddock, chairman of the Middleton Burn Action Group, which has been fighting this scheme for more than two years, highlighting three reasons for refusal ‘from many’.

He said the scheme would do ‘substantial harm to the Belford conservation area’ and would do ‘serious harm to an iconic landscape which was described in this chamber by the late Coun John Taylor as a jewel in the crown of Northumberland’.

Finally, Mr Craddock added that the scheme ‘would, in the bigger picture, generate only a trifling amount of electricity’.

Barbara Hooper, from the National Trust, explained that the Trust was ‘extremely concerned about the impact of this proposal on our properties’, including Lindisfarne Castle, the Farne Islands and the viewpoint at Ros Castle.

Next to speak was the chairman of the parish council, Brenda Stanton, who urged the committee ‘to protect this unique and beautiful part of Northumberland and the local economy’, citing the importance of tourism since the village has been bypassed by the A1.

Ward councillor John Woodman agreed with all that had gone before, but emphasised the ‘quality and importance of the landscape’ as the most important reason for refusal.

Michael Briggs, from Energiekontor, tried to highlight some of the benefits of the development, including the fact that the windfarm would produce 90 gigawatt hours of electricity per year, equivalent to 15 per cent of Northumberland’s annual domestic energy consumption.

“This windfarm would punch well above its weight in terms of the amount of renewable energy it would be able to produce,” he said.

He also mentioned the community benefit fund of £112,000 per year and the £500,000 contribution to the Belford station project, but he failed to convince the committee to go against the planning officer’s advice.

Coun Trevor Thorne moved refusal, saying that he thought Coun Woodman had it right with the key issue being the ‘visual impact on this lovely landscape’, adding: “I think it would have a disastrous impact.”

Coun Milburn Douglas seconded the motion, saying: “Money can’t buy what is at Belford at the moment.”

One of the other reasons for refusal was due that the windfarm would have ‘an adverse effect on the safe operation of Ministry of Defence’s Air Defence Radar at Brizlee Wood’.