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Planners say back these wind farms; Advice will be given at all-day meeting.

Byline: By Brian Daniel

COUNCILLORS in Northumberland will next week be advised to approve two controversial wind farm applications but refuse a third.

Berwick Borough Council yesterday released its officer reports on the three schemes, which are due to be determined at an all-day meeting of its planning committee on Thursday next week.

Officers recommend the applications for seven turbines at Moorsyde and six at Barmoor, from Your Energy and Force 9 respectively, are approved.

But Npower Renewables' proposal for seven structures at Toft Hill is recommended for refusal.

The council says the two schemes it proposes to be approved are in an area of least constraint for wind farms in the emerging Regional Spatial Strategy and in the Northumberland and National Park Joint Structure Plan.

It also says the projects would make a significant contribution to the region's targets for renewable energy generation.

The authority says the turbines would not have any "unacceptable adverse" impact on residential amenity, tourism, highway safety, public rights of way or have any "significant" environmental effects on landscape and visual impact, or impacts on features of archaeological or ecological significance.

The decision to recommend approval at Moorsyde follows 439 letters of support, but 355 letters and a 756-signature petition objecting to the scheme. There were 426 letters and 504 slips of opposition, and 95 letters and eight slips in support of Barm oor.

Both schemes are subject to a legal agreement over creation of community benefit funds.

In its recommendation that Toft Hill be refused, the council states the wind farm would "significantly harm" the setting of the nearby Duddo Stone Circle - a scheduled ancient monument - and that such harm can not satisfactorily be mitigated.

And it concludes that of either of the cumulative scenarios allowed, the Toft Hill turbines would have the "most significant impact" on the Duddo site.

The scheme had attracted 22 letters and an 18-signature petition of objection, and one letter of support.

Your Energy yesterday confirmed it would be providing a community benefit fund of pounds 550,000 if granted approval for Moorsyde.

It has already initiated discussions with local charitable organisations to establish who could benefit. Company development manager Alexandra Bowers said: "A panel made up of community representatives will be formed to suggest suitable projects.

There would be a substantial lump sum at the outset to enable larger community projects to get off the ground.

"What the fund goes towards is ultimately up to the local community, and a steady annual income stream enables communities to plan long-term projects that can benefit their area."

But Don Brownlow, of Moorsyde Action Group, said: "When you examine the figures, they are a joke: pounds 22,000 per year would buy less than 3,000 energy saving light bulbs and amounts to less than pounds 1 per head in the borough.

"We have already seen the damage that Your Energy's proposal has caused to investment in local tourist businesses, we have probably already lost more than the community fund would pay over 25 years.

"The millions that would be wasted on subsidising a small, intermittent and erratic supply of electricity from Your Energy's proposed turbines would be more effectively spent on energy conservation."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 19, 2008
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