VILLAGERS fighting two bids for massive wind turbines have employed a new weapon – remote control helicopters armed with cameras.
Residents at Belford, Northumberland, have used the equipment to gather video footage and photographs from the height of the engines proposed, in a bid to demonstrate how visible they would be in the area’s countryside.
The objectors have employed the tactic ahead of determination of an appeal one of the developers has submitted after they were refused permission to put up a monitoring mast.
Residents at Belford are facing a bid from Air Farmers Ltd for 16 turbines, 125m high, at Middleton Burn. They are also up against a proposal from Energiekontor UK Ltd for a further nine engines, 100m high, at Belford Burn and formed the Middleton Burn Action Group to oppose both bids.
Neither company has submitted a full planning application to date although Energiekontor lodged plans for a 60m wind monitoring mast which was subsequently refused by Northumberland County Council.
The action group recently asked those involved at both sites if it could fly blimps from their land, in a bid to illustrate the height of the turbines proposed.
But after getting nowhere with the developers, the campaigners joined up with Hexham-based Over and above aerial video and photography company, the group flew a remote controlled helicopter at the height of the two sets of turbines.
A camera attached to the helicopter gathered video footage and photos, which the group believes demonstrates how visible the turbines would be in the landscape. The footage has now been placed on video sharing website youtube, ahead of tomorrow’s closing date for comments on Group vice chairman Kerry Noble said: “The video illustrates the phenomenal impact on the AONB and the national park and the entire local area, and how highly visible these things will be.
“It is totally inappropriate in an area of high landscape value.”
The group has also hired experts in landscape and ecologist to prepare reports in support of its case against the appeal.
Mr Noble asked the planning inspector who will decide the challenge to consider the mast not on its own, but with up to 300 bird diverters, which the RSPB requested be attached and council officers had agreed to if approved.
In a letter to the inspector, he claims the mast with diverters – said to glow at night – will be like “a Christmas tree with full decorations and lights.”
Mr Noble added: “We are quite hopeful with all these factors that we could have it dismissed.”
Michael Briggs, Energiekontor’s project manager for the Belford Burn site, last night said it had not given permission for a blimp “or anything else for that matter” to be flown over the land, but declined to comment on the footage.
He added of the appeal: “It is now with the planning Inspectorate and being considered in accordance with a set timetable.
“The planning inspectorate will issue its decision on the appeal in a number of weeks having considered the planning merits of the case and any comments made by the local planning authority, consultees and other third parties.”