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Region could be carpeted with turbines

Campaigners have called for the Government to safeguard North East beauty spots as The Journal reveals hundreds of wind turbines could blight the region. Our wind map reveals nearly 250 turbines could pepper the North East landscape in the next year if planning chiefs give them the go-ahead. Information provided by the region's councils indicates an influx of turbines could begin to dominate the landscape within a few years.

Campaigners have called for the Government to safeguard North East beauty spots as The Journal reveals hundreds of wind turbines could blight the region. Our wind map reveals nearly 250 turbines could pepper the North East landscape in the next year if planning chiefs give them the go-ahead.

Information provided by the region's councils indicates an influx of turbines could begin to dominate the landscape within a few years.

A total of 64 turbines have already been approved at sites across the North East including a controversial application in Alnwick.

Meanwhile in Tynedale there are currently 74 turbines being scoped for erection by major energy companies.

These include 14 turbines at Kirkharle, 14 at Throckrington, and 24 in Plenmeller, all near Hexham in Northumberland.

In one of few positive announcements for tourism groups fighting the spread of turbines, the North East Assembly has decided to carry out another study into the cumulative impact of wind farms in Durham.

But the Government has reiterated its commitment to produce 15% of the UK's energy supply from renewable sources, including wind power, by 2020.

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Campaigners have called for the Government to safeguard North East beauty spots as The Journal reveals hundreds of wind turbines could blight the region. Our wind map reveals nearly 250 turbines could pepper the North East landscape in the next year if planning chiefs give them the go-ahead.

Information provided by the region's councils indicates an influx of turbines could begin to dominate the landscape within a few years.

A total of 64 turbines have already been approved at sites across the North East including a controversial application in Alnwick.

Meanwhile in Tynedale there are currently 74 turbines being scoped for erection by major energy companies.

These include 14 turbines at Kirkharle, 14 at Throckrington, and 24 in Plenmeller, all near Hexham in Northumberland.

In one of few positive announcements for tourism groups fighting the spread of turbines, the North East Assembly has decided to carry out another study into the cumulative impact of wind farms in Durham.

But the Government has reiterated its commitment to produce 15% of the UK's energy supply from renewable sources, including wind power, by 2020.

Last night Peter Atkinson, Conservative MP for Hexham, said it was unacceptable that the region should become a hotspot for wind farm developments.

He said: "The planning applications for wind turbines for the North East has turned into anarchy. Wind energy companies have realised there is a lottery, meaning they put in as many applications as they can to see which ones are the lucky ones.

"We must not simply accept that our region is a haven for wind turbines. When they (Government planners) drew the map they decided large parts of Northumberland were suitable for wind turbines. But we need to look at the cumulative affect that more than one wind turbine has on our landscape during the planning process.

"We need energy supplies that are reliable for seven days a week and 365 days a year, and wind turbines are not that reliable - building a nuclear power station would help. There is a need to value our landscape and tourism is becoming an increasingly important part of the region's economy which will be hit by more wind farm developments."

The Department for Communities and Local Government said ministers believed local councils were best placed to make decisions regarding wind farms, with controversial applications assessed by the national planning inspectorate if necessary.

But Ruth McNeely, the chairwoman of the North Northumberland Tourism Association, said the increasing number of turbines threatened to destroy the landscape. She said: "We are all in favour of creating alternative sources of power, but not at the expense of our beautiful landscapes. Our concern is that the landscapes would be destroyed as a result of these turbines. It's an issue about where they are situated and about how the consultation takes place.

"Areas of North Northumberland are areas of unspoilt beauty and that is one of the big tourist attractions. Turbines have the potential to spoil that."

Between a ROC and a hard place

The Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROC) are cited as the main reason for energy companies seeking turbines in rural areas.

They are a chance for big energy suppliers to prove they are committed to climate change without having to invest in new renewable technology.

There are three steps in the energy chain – the producer, the supplier and the consumer – and all are tied into the ROC scheme.

For each megawatt hour of energy a wind turbine company produces, the electricity regulator Ofgem gives them one ROC.

Energy companies which supply energy to our homes are under an obligation to invest in renewable sources.

Ofgem wants each supplier to have a certain amount of ROCs each year to show their commitment but many energy suppliers just buy these up without any real investment.

ROCs are typically selling for about £46, which inflates the price of wholesale electricity for generators.

That gives them a huge incentive to find sites where they can erect turbines – meaning landowners can be offered £100,000 a year for housing a wind farm.

The protester

Campaigner Andrew Joicey knows better than most the effort it takes to resist wind turbine applications in rural communities.

The Northumberland farmer is a member of the Save our Unspoilt Landscape, which was set up to oppose an application for turbines in Barmoor.

For two years the group fought to have applications rejected for six turbines in Barmoor, along with seven in Moorsyde and seven in Toft Hill, all in Northumberland.

And, in March last year councillors rejected the three proposals for wind farms.

However, appeals have already been lodged on Catamount Energy’s six-turbine Barmoor proposal and Your Energy’s six-turbine Moorsyde scheme.

Last night Mr Joicey urged others to fight turbine applications. He said: "I’m very alarmed by the situation. I’m not completely against wind farms but they are being applied for in inappropriate areas.

"I don’t think people realise the scale of these turbines. Some are 125m high, the size of a 32-storey building.

"In the rural countryside you wouldn’t get any other applications for another building. That would contravene most planning permission rules and it would defy common sense.

"The general public have been brainwashed to think that wind turbines are the only way we can provide power and that’s not true."

He said large Government subsidies available to developers of renewable projects are the reason why applicants are keen to appeal when refused permission.

The tactics

Planners are hoping to reverse a "policy gap" in which wind turbines have been allowed to spread across the region because authorities have not considered their combined impact.

The region’s biggest planning document, known as the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), cleared the way for turbines to be built in locations across the North East.

But when council planning committees consider a developer’s turbine application they have so far only considered the individual impact.

This has meant many turbines been approved despite wind farms already existing just yards away. Now the North East Assembly is hoping to change this by carrying out another "cumulative impact assessment" in which planners will be warned of the damage done to the landscape by the combined effect of turbines.

The Assembly has already looked at the East of Durham and issued a document which councillors can now cite as evidence of why an individual application should be turned down because of its overall impact.

Assembly planners have also previously issued a warning for Northumberland councils following a study which revealed the "gentle hills of Northumberland" cannot accommodate the number of turbines originally planned for the region.

Although the studies have yet to be acted on councillors believe they are the first step towards a legally-backed defence against the spread of turbines.

Durham’s new council bosses have decided to take part in the latest North East Assembly £35,000 study into the spread of the turbines.

Experts hope to find out how much scope there is for further turbines in Durham, and which parts should be considered off limits.

Opponents pile up war chest for major inquiry

Opponents of three proposed wind farms in Northumberland are raising funds to fight them.

Bids for turbines at Moorsyde, Toft Hill and Barmoor, all near Berwick, are to be heard at a joint public inquiry beginning in May.

And opposition groups Save our Unspoilt Landscape (SOUL) and Moorsyde Action Group (MAG) are raising funds to fight the proposals at the hearing.

SOUL is opposing the Barmoor proposal, which it claims is facing more than 1,000 letters of objection.

The group has already appointed a barrister and a planning consultant.

It is seeking to raise £100,000 to cover its costs and is currently at the £60,000 mark.

The group is holding three fundraising events, the first of which is an evening of Birdsong with Geoff Sample at The Lady Waterford Hall in Ford on February 6 at 7pm.

MAG has also hired a barrister and a landscape expert. Like SOUL, it is holding fundraising events, including a megasale, and inviting donations.


Source: http://www.journallive.co.u...

JAN 26 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/18762-region-could-be-carpeted-with-turbines
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