What do they hope to gain?

JUST what do Northumberland’s Tories expect to achieve by making offers to the residents which are patently undeliverable?

Their ‘free parking policy’ has already been exposed as being fundamentally flawed with hidden costs that will adversely affect service delivery. Now they try to propose a diversion from the planning process to seek to stop windfarm development, ignoring the realities that such actions would only lead to expensive planning inquiries and ultimate imposition from the Planning Inspectorate.

Playing to the gallery is a recognised ploy from politicians who have no legitimate policies to put forward. What we saw from the Tories at Northumberland County Council’s April meeting was both disgraceful and sad.

A prudent absenting by their leader, who clearly wants wind turbines on his land, left his deputy to argue that, while he didn’t want a moratorium (because he had been told that would be illegal) he did want the county council to undertake an emergency consultation process, which he must be assuming would reach the same conclusion. He totally ignored all the advice he was given by other members (and indeed officers) that by stepping outside the Local Development Framework (LDF) process, particularly now the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has been issued, the council would be exposed to many more expensive claims by potential developers and ultimately do a dis-service to local residents.

Only by following the approved process for completing a new LDF for Northumberland can we hope to protect the countryside we all value. None of us want to see the countryside indiscriminately littered with wind turbines, but the only way the council can have a strategy and set of policies which are sustainable that can be defended is to comply with the planning system.

The council was forced to develop a new LDF following reorganisation, without any concession by both the previous or present Governments, except that the new NPPF allows councils a 12 month transitional period. Northumberland County Council has been preparing its LDF as quickly as possible since April 2009 and the new Core Strategy will be published in the next few weeks.

It will go out for consultation and this will be the real opportunity for individuals, groups and organisations to make their views known. But please don’t think Northumberland County Council will just be able to say no to windfarm development.

Objectors need to read and understand the provisions of the NPPF document and in particular its presumption to allow development. Fortunately the new NPPF is only 70 pages in length, not the 1000 it replaces! But residents must make their views known, so please do not miss your opportunity.

I spoke with a few of the considerable number of members of the public who attended the council meeting. They fully understood why most councillors (Lib Dems and Labour) were urging the Tories to change their proposed motion to get an agreed position. They understood that going against the system wouldn’t help their cause; why couldn’t the Tory group understand that? It was clear that some Tories voted for their motion with less than 100 per cent enthusiasm. Thank goodness for Northumberland residents wiser counsels prevailed.

Andrew Tebbutt,

Northumberland county councillor and executive member for corporate resources