Road safety and birds must be addressed

County planners have issued strong advice about research to an energy company that wants to build nine turbines near an internationally-important wildlife site.

Energiekontor UK intends to submit a planning application for 100metre turbines at Belford Burn, which is just over a mile from Holburn Lake and Moss, a notable roost for greylag geese.

This is despite being refused planning permission for a wind test mast there, a decision it is appealing against.

On its own initiative, the company is working on a scoping report covering effects of the 22.5MW site on the environment, neighbours and tourism and last April asked the county council for a response to its work so far.

The response has now been given and includes detailed advice on compiling evidence.

The response, from strategic and urban development team manager Frances Wilkinson, says under ornithology: “I strongly advise that detailed survey and assessment methodologies are agreed in advance with the LPA (local plannng authority) Natural England and RSPB, because this will help to ensure that any submitted planning application and environmental statement contains the information required for the determination process.”

Her report also underlines the need for photo-montages illustrating the impact on views from at least 10 areas.

Several turbines would be visible as far away as Eyemouth and more visible from Holy Island to the National Park.

She said the company would have to address Highways Agency concerns about safety on the A1.

The agency said drivers could be distracted by the sight of the spinning turbines, ‘likely to be most visible on the A1 northbound at Mousen Bends, where the alignment of the A1 is poor and where there is a history of road traffic accidents’.

Energiekontor proposes to take turbines to Belford Burn via Waren Mill crossroads (Cragmill Road). The Highways Agency says the central traffic island there would probably need to be removed, but this ‘would not be desirable’ as it provided a safe crossing point for route one of the National Cycle Network and a footway.

Ms Wilkinson said the study should examine the effect on footpaths and bridleways in the area, especially regional trails such as St Cuthbert’s Way and the Castle and Coastal Trail.

It should also assess the impact on tourism.

It must also look carefully at cumulative impact on landscape, environment, amenity, ecology, cultural heritage, views from key points in Northumberland National Park and the effect on aviation and air traffic radar. This includes a plan identifying all windfarms within 60km (37.2 miles) constructed or proposed.

Such studies focus on protected places including battlefields, and the turbines would be visible from Flodden, which marks the battle’s 500th anniversary in 2013.