ANOTHER major wind farm was given the green light in Northumberland last night – despite a claim that a stretch of the county’s coastline is at “saturation point” with turbines.
County councillors voted 8-3 to approve Peel Energy’s bid for nine turbines – each 126 metres-high – at Widdrington, next to the main road bringing tourists and visitors to the nearby Druridge Bay beauty spot.
The decision came despite objections from more than 50 local people and several local parish councils who claim the area is being swamped by wind farms.
It follows approval for four giant turbines at the former Sisters opencast site at Widdrington and three at Bewick Drift in Lynemouth – as well as the 13 already built on land surrounding the nearby Alcan aluminium complex.
County Hall planning officers recommended approval of the Peel Energy scheme, saying that its proximity to the Sisters site would mean they would be seen as one single wind farm and would not have an unacceptable impact.
The company changed its original plan for 13 turbines to nine in a bid to counter apposition, and says the installation will provide much-needed renewable energy and generate £1.35m in local community benefits over its 25-year lifetime.
Last night Coun Paul Kelly said he would reluctantly support the scheme, as the reduction of four turbines had slightly lessened fears over cumulative impact on the area.
However, he said the coastline from Blyth northwards had now taken as many wind turbines as it could withstand.
“I do feel we have reached saturation point. Tourists will tolerate the odd single wind farm, but they will not tolerate a wind farm landscape. I feel we are very, very close to having an almost turbine landscape from Blyth upwards, and intervals between wind farms are getting smaller and smaller.”
Widdrington parish councillor John Grant said wind turbines were increasingly dominating the area, a place where people had chosen to live because of its rural nature. “They don’t want to see these large industrial structures every time they go into their gardens or driveways.”
Peel Energy has claimed the wind farm will help kick-start the £200m Blue Sky Forest tourism and leisure project, which it is hoped will create hundreds of jobs by developing a string of former opencast mines in the Widdrington area.
This is rejected by local people, who fear the proliferation of turbines will deter potential developers. John English from Peel Energy told last night’s meeting in Morpeth that the company will pay £50,000 towards the completion of new workshops aimed at bringing jobs to the former Ellington Colliery site – and fund 50% of the cost of five apprenticeships over five years at the workspace scheme.