Wind Ventures’ application for four 115m turbines at Tranwell, just to the west of Morpeth, was unanimously refused at the 3 December planning meeting at County Hall. The decision followed the officer’s recommendation for refusal,
The Officer’s Report recommended refusal on 5 grounds:
The Report references recent national planning guidance on renewables which NCC has, regrettably, failed to reference in other recent wind turbine cases.
NCC Planning Committee web page (click on agenda item for Officers Report).
Tranwell application: NCC Planning Ref. 12/03731/RENE.
Local response groups: Tranwell Windfarm Action Group (TWAG) and Action for Rural Morpeth (AfRM).
Air Farmers held what was billed as an exhibition on their Middleton Burn, Belford, project for fourteen 125m turbines on Saturday, 23 November.
This consisted of just 5 single-sided, trifold panels. One was devoted to road access to the site; another had a few items on the claimed benefits of the scheme; a third gave basic information on the site location; the fourth gave a vague ‘project overview’ with pretty pictures of heritage assets in the neighbourhood; the fifth featured photomontages from just 4 viewpoints.
The ‘exhibition’ outdid even Energiekontor’s Belford Burn exhibitions for paucity of information, indeed they had less information this time than was provided at their first presentation in September, 2011 when 93.6% of visitors registered their opposition to the proposal.
Missing information included:
When questioned about the lack of information presented, Mr Jens Rasmussen, the Danish lead actor in the project, stated that the company would provide more information when a planning application was submitted. He kept repeating that the exhibition was “just” for public consultation. He did not seem to understand that the public can hardly be expected to form an informed view of the project if the company deliberately withholds information on the key issues.
The exhibition provided no printed material on the project and Mr Rasmussen could offer only vague promises that detailed information would be made available online at some time in the future: Air Farmers’ website has as little information as its exhibition; indeed, it is still showing the project as comprising 16 turbines despite a reduction to 14 in October.
Middleton Burn Action Group, which is fighting both the Middleton Burn and Belford Burn schemes, held an exit poll at Saturday’s exhibition, which saw 95 per cent of attendees vote against the proposals.
An MBAG spokesman said: “This was the fifth exit poll we have conducted and yet again, the people of this community have shown their outrage at these disgusting proposals.”
Response Group: Middleton Burn Action Group (MBAG).
RES are back with a rejigged version of their Parkhead/Rayburn proposal. This time they are proposing to build five 127m turbines on the site to the west of Rayburn Lake.
RES are proposing this scheme in partnership with BT who have had 2 previous failed applications in the Wingates area. The previous applications by RES and BT in the area contributed to the years of planning blight that have been experienced by local communities which face being ringed by turbine sites.
The previous application by RES was appealed for non-determination while NCC planners were still waiting for them to supply further information, before being withdrawn in May, 2011.
There is very real anger that these companies are back and propose putting local communities through the wringer yet again with many more months of stress and expense in the cause of another unnecessary turbine scheme in this attractive tourist landscape.
The site area includes the site of BT’s rejected scheme at Wingates Moor, allowing plenty of room for subsequent extension(s) should they succeed in marring the landscape with this scheme.
If this project is allowed it will add 5 turbines which are 17m higher than the nearby Wingates turbines to this attractive landscape, an overweaning and incongruous industrial backdrop to Netherwitton’s conservation area and Grade 1 Listed Hall.
Please add your objection to this appalling project: you can object online on the NCC planning website (ignore the statement that ‘Comments may not be submitted at this time’!).
A planning application submitted by Narec to the Marine Management Organisation for 15 turbines in 3 arrays offshore from Blyth has been approved. The turbines will be up to 195m (639 ft) in height, the existing offshore turbines at Blyth are 93m high.
Array 2 will be only 5.6km from Blyth; Array 3 approximately 7km off Newbiggin; Array 4 approximately 14km from Blyth.
There has been criticism of the way this application has been handled because it received very little publicity and attracted little attention outside Blyth, where the minimal consultation was focused.
Recently, we have seen major criticism of the cumulative impacts of large-scale onshore turbine development on the Coastal AONB and on heritage and tourist assets. No attention has been paid to cumulative impacts with offshore turbines because these are handled by a different planning process.
These turbines have been consented before the MMO starts its consultation on development off the North East coast.
The Brackenside proposal was approved 10:3, with 1 abstention, at the planning committee meeting held on 5 November. This is the third approval of this contentious and confused proposal, two previous approvals being quashed after NCC conceded multiple errors in process when they were taken to judicial review.
The Brackenside site was originally part of the Barmoor application for nine turbines near Lowick, north Northumberland.
Following an audit of the Barmoor application by Scott Wilson (commissioned by Berwick Borough Council, the then Local Planning Authority) the developer removed turbines 7, 8 and 9 from the application, i.e. all those on Brackenside. A revised application for 6 turbines was eventually consented at appeal.
The findings of the Planning Inspector at the Berwick Public Inquiry, which carefully considered the Barmoor proposal, endorsed the Scott Wilson report and only recommended approval on the basis of the “containment” of the 6 turbines south of the Barmoor Ridge.
The Barber family have never accepted this expert finding and propose building a turbine close to the site of the original Barmoor turbine 8. Though smaller than the original Barmoor turbines on the same site, it will, with its elevated site and proximity to the other turbines, be seen as an extension of the Barmoor scheme; but not a coherent, designed extension. It breaks all the rules for the design of wind farms in the landscape.
Unfortunately, Northumberland County Council, unlike Scottish Borders Council, does not employ a landscape architect to assess applications according to recognised principles.*
Previous hearings of this application failed to examine or recognise the expert recommendations of landscape architects and a Planning Inspector. They were based on little more than the unevidenced personal opinion of a junior planning officer and his colleagues. When the history of the site has been brought up by members, factually incorrect information has been given to them by officers.
This happened again at the latest meeting, where officers misrepresented the opinion of the Planning Inspector who allowed the Barmoor appeal and presented a fudged and confused account of what constitutes the planning history of the site.
They also failed to explain the problem of cumulative noise and none of the councillors present seemed to have sufficient understanding of the issues to question what they were being told by officers.
Officer’s Report and other documents: Committee agenda.
NCC Case Ref. 11/02217/FUL.
Dr John Ferguson - objection letter.
‘Report to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government’, by Ruth V MacKenzie BA(Hons), MRTPI, 19 October 2009. Barmoor, Moorsyde and Toft Hill, File Refs: APP/P2935/A/08/2078347; APP/P2935/A/08/2079520; APP/P2935/A/08/2077474.
* SNH, ‘Siting and Designing Windfarms in the Landscape’, 2009.
‘Berwick farmers’ wind turbine bid scuppered yet again’, The Journal, 6 April, 2013
At the same meeting the proposal for a 61m turbine at Bavington Mount was approved on a majority vote of the committee.
The officer’s report to committee gave only a partial account of the cumulation of turbine developments in the area and consistently downplayed the impacts of the proposal which, at 61m, is only 5.5m smaller than the nearby Kirkheaton turbines.
It has been announced that the decision on the Fenrother appeal aginst refusal of five 126.5m turbines at Fenrother, near Longhorsley, has been ‘recovered’ by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. This means that the eventual decision will be made by the Minister rather than the Planning Inspector who conducted the recent public inquiry.
The Minister, Eric Pickles, recently announced that he would be recovering more decisions on wind farms. The perception is that he is doing this in order to give some substance to the badly-drafted national guidance on renewable energy that was issued in July this year, replacing PPS 22.
On 6 June, Mr Pickles made a planning policy announcement on onshore wind, which said that the need for renewable energy would not override views of local people and concerns over landscape and heritage. The wind industry subsequently crowed that nothing had changed, pointing to the fact that 9 out of 14 wind farms had been given the go ahead since 6 June and quoting comments made by a Planning Inspector, who said: “National policy has not been changed by the recent ministerial statements”.
It was subsequently discovered that 7 wind farm planning appeals were recovered by the Secretary of State on 5 June. This would normally only be done in cases where the development was of strategic importance, had significant implications for national policy or raised unusual issues.
The timing of these announcements in relation to the appeal process was questioned by lawyers representing wind farm developers. Ministers normally recover a decision soon after an appeal has been registered, but this intervention took place when public inquiries for 2 of the appeals had already been completed, and inquiries for 2 more were still in progress.
Apparently only 19 onshore wind applications have previously been decided in this way. These include the Toft Hill, Moorsyde and Barmoor applications which were called in before a conjoined public inquiry in Berwick.
The Minister’s intentions, as voiced in his June statements, did not find much in the way of concrete expression in July’s policy document (‘Planning practice guidance for renewable and low carbon energy’) which many outside the wind industry see as weak and badly drafted.
The wind industry is strongly suggesting that policy is being effected by an unparalleled ministerial intervention in the planning process. It seems likely that they will use the judicial review process to challenge some of the eventual decisions made by the Minister.
KEY: Yellow - Pre-application; Red - Planning Application; Green - Consented/Under construction; Blue - Operating; White - refused/withdrawn/abandoned/derelict. Large markers with a black spot represent ‘Section 36’ applications (over 50MW nominal capacity).
Dots represent smaller, so-called ‘farm-scale’ turbines (often as big as commercial turbines).
Turbines smaller than 30m (100 ft)are not recorded. Dozens of 15-30m turbines have been built or consented in Northumberland.
The Journal, 25 Septrember, 2013
‘Harm is being done to the region’s beautiful landscape and damaging tourism believes The Bishop of Newcastle, The Rt Revd Mart Wharton
‘The Bishop of Newcastle has said he has a Christian duty to speak out against wind turbines turning the rural North East into a “disfigured industrial landscape”.
‘The Rt Revd Martin Wharton hit out at “the harm that is being done to our beautiful landscape on which the health of our rural economy, and especially tourism, depends.”
‘His comments add weight to those calling on the Government to consider the financial implications of allowing onshore wind turbines to undermine a county’s tourism offer.
‘After spending the summer seeing the sights of Northumberland, Bishop Martin said: “There is no evidence that I have seen that suggests that wind farms will ever provide the reliable, controllable energy that is required by our society, however many there might be. It is a basic Christian truth that we all have a duty and a responsibility to care for and exercise wise stewardship over God’s creation, which has been entrusted to us.
‘“Our countryside needs to be protected and preserved for ourselves, for our children and for our grandchildren as a place of refreshment and renewal for the spiritual health and well being of us all.”
Not satisfied with the damage already done to our treasured landscapes, the speculators are threatening yet more damaging projects.
German-owned Energiekontor has an application in for nine 100m turbines at Belford Burn (see below). As well as dominating the village of Belford, these turbines would add to the cumulation of turbines skylining views inland from nearby Holy Island and the Heritage Coast.
Air Farmers are close to submitting an application for another sixteen 125m turbines on a contiguous site, Middleton Burn, immediately to the north of Belford Burn. This site abuts the National Trust’s St Cuthbert’s Cave and St Cuthbert’s Way, as well as being even closer to the coast and Holy Island.
See below for the Northumberland & Newcastle Society’s views on the growing turbine blight.
German-owned developers Energiekontor have submitted a planning application for nine 100m turbines at Belford Burn, close to Belford.
The controversial scheme has already seen an application for an anemometer mast refused by planners.
An exit poll of visitors to Energiekontor’s rudimentary exhibition in May saw 339 of 346 respondents (98.85%) registering their opposition to the scheme.
Everybody who cares about the landscape and tourist industry of North Northumberland should register their objection to this inappropriate scheme. It is totally unacceptable in its own right and would have major cumulative impacts with the twenty-eight 125m turbines at Middlemoor/Wandylaw and the six consented 110.5m turbines at Barmoor.
It is easy to register and object online, on the NCC planning page.
Click on the Comments tab - ignoring the spurious ‘Comments may not be submitted at this time’! - and either log in or register to make your comment.
Comments should be restricted to planning issues. Some of the main issues with the application are listed on the Middleton Burn Action Group (MBAG) website.
Apart from the many problems with the site, there are well-founded concerns regarding massive turbine transporters negotiating a route through the centre of the Belford. This is clearly illustrated in the applicant’s own access survey:
In the last year we have see a number of turbine crane and transporter accidents in Northumberland, including the one near Elsdon which closed the A696 for a week.
Massive turbine transporters should not be coming through the centre of Belford, risking damage to numbers of listed buildings.
The transporter shown above was carrying a comparatively short tower section (though weighing 53 tonnes). Blade transporters are considerably longer, as you will see from the developer’s graphic above which gives the overall length of the vehicles carrying blades through Belford as 42.664m. For comparison, Berwick Town Hall is 46m high.
The unanimous refusal of the Follions Farm turbine scheme has been appealed and will be heard by written representations.
Objections to the appeal can be made directly on the Planning Inspectorate’s website.
The Journal, 15 August, 2013
‘Offshore photographs of wind farms in Northumberland have raised new questions about the number of turbines in the county
‘Photographs taken from off the coast of Northumberland have opened a new strand in the debate on the place of wind farms in the rural county.
‘The pictures were taken by Bill Short and two fellow members of the Northumberland and Newcastle Society, a body which works to protect valuable buildings and landscapes and to enhance the quality of life in both urban and rural areas.
‘With the aim of showing how clusters of turbines up to 125m high are now dominating views of the county, Mr Short and his friends took to a 29ft yacht on Sunday and sailed from Blyth harbour up the coastline to Dunstanburgh and back again.
The setting of many of Northumberland’s most treasured heritage sites is being increasingly compromised by the growing number of large wind turbine parks inland from the Heritage Coast, much of which is supposed to be a highly protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
They include Holy Island, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh castles.
Nor is it just views from the Heritage Coast that are being damaged, as the above photograph from the National Trust’s Ros Castle viewpoint shows. The Labour Minister who eventually rubber-stamped the consent for these turbines stated: “As regards the Northumberland Coast AONB, she agrees with the Inspector at IR12.20 [Public Inquiry Report],for the reasons he gives there, that there would be no significant effect upon the AONB.”
I have yet to meet anyone who has seen the result of the decision who agrees with that opinion.
Meanwhile our Prime Minister assures us that:
“Our countryside is one of the most precious things we have in Britain and I am proud to represent a rural constituency. I would never sanction something that might ruin our landscapes and scenery.” Prime Minister David Cameron, ‘We cannot afford to miss out on shale gas’, The Telegraph, 12 August 2013.
Not satisfied with the damage already done to our treasured landscapes, the speculators are threatening yet more damaging projects.
German-owned Energiekontor has an application in for nine 100m turbines at Belford Burn (see below). As well as dominating the village of Belford, these turbines would add to the cumulation of turbines skylining views inland from nearby Holy Island and the Heritage Coast.
Air Farmers are close to submitting an application for another sixteen 125m turbines on a contiguous site, Middleton Burn, immediately to the north of Belford Burn. This site abuts the National Trust’s St Cuthbert’s Cave and St Cuthbert’s Way, as well as being even closer to the coast and Holy Island.
The Kielder Forest and National Park are once more threatened by wind development, after years of being seen as off-limits for wind developers.
German-owned developers RWE npower are looking to develop a large area of Forestry Commission land in the Redesdale and Kielder Forests. The site is just outside the Northumberland National Park boundary but a large turbine array would have very significant visual impacts on ‘far horizons’ in the National Park and on users of the Kielder Forest Drive and Pennine Way.
The eventual size and location of the project has not been made public, but John Riddle, who chairs the Northumberland National Park authority, is reported as saying that, “I understand they are talking about the possibility of 50 to 100 very large turbines there, up to 170 metres tall”.
Applications for four 90m anemometer masts have been submitted at widely separated locations, from close to the Forest Drive near Tod Law in the north, to Comb Forest in the south (see application links below).
As well as major industrial wind complexes in close proximity, we are seeing an attempt to build large industrial farm turbines within the National Park.
A screening application has been lodged with the National Park, as the responsible planning authority, for two 74m turbines at High Thorneyburn Farm, near Falstone.
It seems strange that the Pennine AONB has planning guidance which limits the height of turbines to 35m, but that the agents for this proposal consider 74m turbines to be visually acceptable in the Northumberland National Park.
‘Kielder “could get up to 100 turbines”’, The Journal, 9 August, 2013.
90m anemometer mast applications: No. 1: 13/02357/RENE; No. 2: 13/02358/RENE; No. 3: 13/02359/RENE; No. 4: 13/02361/RENE
High Thorneyburn Farm, Falstone, turbine application - Northumberland National Park Planning Ref. 13NP0048EIA.
It has been announced that the 100MW North Blyth biomass power station planned by RES for Battleship Wharf on the River Blyth has been consented by a government minister.
Unlike wind power stations, this project will generate base load power. It will generate 750GWh of renewable electricity a year, equivalent to the average annual electricity consumption of over 170,000 households or more than enough to power all the homes in Northumberland.
Unlike wind power, it will also provide significant local employment. Once built, the project will create an estimated 50 permanent jobs.
Northumberland was already massively exceeding all renewables targets before this project was consented (see below). The consent of this project adds to the pressure for a moratorium on further needless wind development in Northumberland’s tourist landscapes.
The Duddo Stones have been described by Archaeologist Roger Miket as, “Undoubtedly the most complete and dramatically situated in Northumberland”. Stan Beckensall, the sage of Northumbrian rock art, describes the Stones as,“ One of the most attractive monuments in Britain, with a setting that looks towards the Cheviots and to Scotland, including the Eildon Hills.”
The Planning Inspector who advised the Secretary of State to reject the Toft Hill wind farm which also threatened the setting of the Stones, described it as “a serene and remarkable place”.
But once again we the setting of the Stones is being threatened by the wind industry.
The proposed Enercon E48 turbine is not a small farm-scale turbine designed to offset farm electricity use. This is a large industrial turbine with a blade-tip height of 74m (242 ft), almost as high as the Black Hill and Drone Hill wind farm turbines (78m) in the Lammermuir Hills which, even though they are 20 and 23 km away and are mostly obscured by landforms, are very visible from the Stones. The Shoreswood turbine is substantially bigger than the original wind farm turbines at Soutra/Dun Law on the A68 (63.5m).
The application was unanimously refused by the Central Planning Committee on Tuesday, 2 October. It had been recommended for refusal, having received a strongly adverse consultation response from the County Archaeologist, supported by English Heritage:
In my opinion the development would cause ‘substantial harm’ to the setting and significance of Duddo Stone Circle, a designated heritage asset in the context of the National Planning Policy Framework.
I therefore recommend that in determining the application the LPA has regard to paragraphs 126-133 of the NPPF. These paragraphs clarify that ‘great weight’ should be given to the conservation of heritage assets (132), that ‘substantial harm’ to heritage assets should be wholly exceptional (132) and that in circumstances where a development will lead to substantial harm to or loss of significance of a designated heritage asset, consent should be refused unless the substantial harm is necessary to achieve substantial public benefits associated with the proposal (133).
(‘Final comment and advice’ from Asst. Co. Archaeologist [Ref: B36/1: 13590] to the Case Officer, 8 August, 2012).
MISLEADING VISUAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT
The visual impact assessment in the original application was misleading. It used photomontages which did not meet recognised SNH guidelines, had serious errors and downplayed visual impacts.
Other impacts ignored
For some reason the planning authority did not properly consider the visual impacts of the proposal on the World War II HFRDF site and tourist viewing platform on Ewe Hill, which is listed in NCC's own Heritage Sites Register.
NCC also ignored the impacts of the proposal on the Salutation Inn and Caravan Park, within 1 km of the turbine site.
Both enjoy marvellous, unimpeded views south to the Cheviots.
Planning Inspectorate - Case Ref. APP/P2935/A/13/2195630.
‘Duddo Stone Circle wind farm plans thrown out’, The Journal, 4 October, 2012.
‘Wind turbine near Berwick would damage setting of 4,000-year-old Duddo stone circle’, The Journal, 23 September, 2012.
The Journal, 6 March, 2013
‘A FIGHT over the siting of wind turbines close to a historic Northumberland battlefield is to be revisited, 500 years on from the bloody conflict.
‘Last year a farmer living near the site where England and Scotland fought in 1513 sought to be allowed to site two engines on his land.
‘He was defeated amid overwhelming opposition from nearby residents and heritage champions alarmed at the prospect of turbines so close to the ancient battlefield.
‘But now the farmer has lodged an appeal meaning the wind row will be revived in this the 500th anniversary of the famous battle.
This application saw an NCC planning officer, who has now left NCC to work for wind industry consultants Amec, agreeing to the use of photomontages which not only fail to meet standard professional guidelines (SNH, Visual Representation of Windfarms, 2006), but which deliberately downplay the visual impacts of the proposal.
There is disbelief amongst local people that the County Archaeologist could fail to object to this proposal which it is admitted will damage the setting of the listed battlefield.
Scottish Borders Council, who are the neighbouring planning authority and consultees in this application, would have rejected this proposal out of hand because it goes against their planning guidance which offers a 2km buffer from important heritage sites such as listed battlefields. This sorry scheme is less than 1km from the battlefield memorial. The memorial is not the battlefield site, which, in historical terms, probably encompasses the turbine site.
The applicant, the archaeologist and the NCC officer seem to disregard cumulative damage. Because there are static pylons in the vicinity - carrying high voltage transmission lines of national importance in the delivery of electricity supplies - it seems that they regard the addition of yet more industrial objects - which are purely for the financial benefit of an individual farmer, and utterly insignificant in terms of Northumberland’s already massive contribution to renewables targets - as quite acceptable.
The wind industry is always ready to make misleading, or even false, claims about the ‘need’ for their schemes as a contribution to Northumberland’s renewable generating capacity.
They use simplistic, outdated and, all too often, plain wrong figures to browbeat planners and bolster their demands for weaker planning controls and consents for ever more, and larger, turbine arrays.
Until recently NCC planning officers have also been guilty of repeating inaccurate and misleading claims in officer reports, advice to councillors and evidence to public inquiries.
We present some of the graphs from a new study by business analyst Bill Short. It uses official data, as of 13 March, 2013, published by the Government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
An update to this analysis, using DECC’s latest figures, is available as a download (PDF file, PDF file, 1.08 MB).
At 40%, Northumberland is currently behind Durham but well ahead of the NE and GB in operational capacity.
It is also ahead of the highest region (Eastern England), whose status depends on co-firing with biomass at a large coal-fired power station.
The GB figure is distorted as it includes offshore and Scotland,Wales and NI.
This allows a more correct assessment of progress currently achieved.
It makes a valid assumption that all projects currently under construction will be completed in 2013, well before 2020.
We now begin to see the truth of Northumberland’s relative position.
This now shows actual planning progress.
It ignores developer progress (or lack of it)
It provides an accurate like for like comparison with our neighbour, Durham.
This demonstrates the likely future position WITHOUT ANY FURTHER PLANNING APPROVALS.
When we add in applications which are still to be decided the prospect for Northumberland looks desperate (over 60% of applications are approved according to NCC figures).
Durham has clearly stated that they have already reached the capacity limits for wind development in most areas.
The leaders of councils in Yorkshire and Cumbria are, with one voice, and supported by their MPs, protesting to government that they have had enough.
Meanwhile, Northumberland says nothing.
The supine attitude of planners compounds the problem: inviting more speculative wind development. Indeed, this is what wind developers tell us, describing NCC planners to us as “Very helpful” and explaining that this is one of the main factors in focusing their efforts in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders rather than other areas.
PNE Wind, one of several German-owned speculative wind development companies operating in Northumberland and the Borders, is progressing aproposal for nine 126.5m turbines at East Ditchburn (Hagdon), near Eglingham.
This proposal is very close to the Middlemoor/Wandylaw complex of twenty eight 125m turbines which is now operating. The two schemes collectively form the largest turbine park in England and have a huge visual impact on Kyloe Hills and Heritage Coast landscapes.
We understand that PNE wind have now hired a PR company, Smithy House Associates, to try and counter local opposition this proposal.
It is expected that they will be holding meetings locally which will centre on the possible ‘community benefits’ associated with the project, funded, of course, from the huge subsidies paid from our electricity bills.
Community benefits form no part of the planning application and should not distract from planning issues.
The application for five 126.5m turbines at Fenrother by German-owned speculative developer Energiekontor was refused by the Central Planning Committee on 8 January.
There was prolonged applause in the crowded Council Chamber when the application was unanimously refused. It had been recommended for refusal in an unprecendentedly critical Officer’s Report.
Two forceful speeches were delivered in opposition to the scheme: by Dr James Lunn of the community response group Fight Fenrother Wind Farm and by Councillor Sanderson, the ward councillor.
Energiekontor’s representative, Mr Sam Dewar, then spoke, almost managing to equal his company’s performence in failing to turn up at the special planning meeting organised by councillors in Morpeth before Christmas, telling the Committee that, “I won’t take up much more of your time”, briefly mentioning a letter sent by his firm responding to the Officers Report and sitting down to a silent reception, having spoken for less than one of his allocated five minutes.
Local community response group: Fight Fenrother Wind Farm.
The December/January edition of The Northumbrian had an excellent article on the wind rush in Northumberland.
The magazine’s coverage is prefaced by the following editorial:
Two proposed wind developments close to the National Park have been refused by councillors and a third withdrawn after representations from the National Park authority.
An application for a 50m anemometer mast at Charity Hall, in an area of high landscape value in the Upper Coquet Valley only 3km from the National Park boundery, was rejected by councillors on Tuesday, 4 December, against the recommendation of a planning officer. The mast application was by Empirica Investments, a company which specialises in ‘turnkey’ projects for large commercial farm turbines.1 They have lodged a number of applications in Northumberland and Durham for 67m (220 ft) Enercon turbines.
At the same planning meeting councillors threw out an application for a 33.5m turbine at East Wingates Farm, 4 km from the National Park boundary and close to the consented Wingates proposal for six 110m turbines, which are now being built. Again a planning officer had recommended approval.2
Recently, the National Park Authority had expressed concerns at the quality of the visual impact assessment carried out for the Wark Common turbine, a 71m turbine which Northumberland County Council had approved, following a planning officer’s recommendation, but which had its planning permission quashed after a judicial review at the High Court. The Council admitted that the application had been defective.
Responding to the re-application, the National Park stated that, “Without sufficient landscape and visual impact information, it is difficult for either the National Park Authority or the council to be fully confident that the proposed development is appropriate in landscape terms.” 3
NCC planners accepted these inadequate visualisations without demur and their original recommendation was based on that information, ignoring the many local representations on that point.
For centuries Northumberland was part of a lawless frontier where ‘reivers’ raided, robbed and killed, reducing much of the region to penury.
The county is under threat again. The reivers now wear suits and are armed with laptops and document cases rather than spears and broadswords. But their intent is the same - a quick killing with no regard for the land, communities or people’s livelihoods.
A study by wind industry consultants Entec for Northumberland County Council which is supposed to ‘inform’ the Core Strategy and LDF laughably considers that Northumberland has the ‘technical capacity ’ for some 6,000 turbines! (According to the wind industry trade body there were 3868 turbines operating in the whole of the UK as of 1 August, 2012).
See the Northumberland Planning Page for information on the Core Strategy consultion.
Berwick Advertiser, 13 November 2012
‘Tighter planning controls need to be put in place to ensure Northumberland does not become a wind farm landscape like the neighbouring Lammermuirs in the Scottish Borders.
‘That is the view of Dr Geoffrey Purves, chairman of the Northumberland and Newcastle Society which campaigns on heritage issues.
‘He has written to town and parish councils calling for their support in influencing the new Local Development Framework currently being prepared by Northumberland County Council.
‘Dr Purves said: “The dangers facing the Northumberland landscape are starkly illustrated by a journey through the Lammermuir Hills in the Scottish Borders, which have now become an archetypal ‘wind farm landscape’.
‘“As a result, the Scottish Borders Council has had to institute much stricter guidelines for wind farm applications.
‘“Northumberland’s outstanding quality is the nature, remoteness and tranquillity of its countryside: it would be a real tragedy for our county if it came to resemble the Lammermuir Hills before the council adopted a more balanced approach than that proposed by the Core Issues document.”
‘The Core Issues document in effect proposes a continuation of the present policy that any application for wind energy is a welcome addition to the county’s contribution to renewable energy and will be accepted unless there is some very good reason not to.
‘The Northumberland and Newcastle Society is proposing an alternative approach which includes a call for fixed separation distances between houses and turbines, depending on their height.
‘Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith is among those who have supported the idea.
Sir Alan Beith’s view.
“If all the wind turbines in Northumberland which currently have planning permission are built, the county will be making a major contribution to the country’s need for renewable energy sources.
“In an area with such spectacular views and landscapes, the planning authority needs to take great care over the further applications which are now coming forward.
“I welcome the Government’s review of the financing of wind farms, and the Secretary of State’s assurance that the local planning authority has the powers it needs to turn down inappropriately sited wind farm applications and to take account of the number of applications already approved. I am encouraging local residents who have concerns about wind farm developments to put their views to the Northumberland planning authority during its consultation on issues and options for the Core Strategy, which will begin towards the end of May 2012.”
Rt. Hon. Sir Alan Beith, MP (Berwick Lib-Dems Website, April 18, 2012).
The figures shown here have already risen since August, when this paper was prepared, with a further 27MW (9 x 126.5m turbines) consented at Maiden Hall, Widdrington, together with numbers of so-called farm turbines.
Applications for at least another 52 turbines are expected this winter with dozens more at the pre-application stage (see the map below).
The Northumberland and Newcastle Society works to protect valuable buildings and landscapes and to enhance the quality of life in both urban and rural areas.
Help the Society protect Northumberland - join now!
For more information, see the N&N Website.
The first of 7 new 130m REpower turbines at Blyth Harbour stands in stark contrast to the derelict 42.5m turbine from the old array which was briefly left standing.
General Electric has unveiled new onshore turbines with hub heights of at least 130 metres for low wind areas, the 2.75-103 model has a blade tip height of over 180m.
Gamesa, the Spanish turbine manufacturer, has a new onshore model with a blade tip height of 188m.
These models will join Vestas’ new 175m high V112 turbine, which is designed for low wind, onshore sites; 17 have already been built in Germany.
The Enercon E-126 is currently the largest onshore turbine, with a height of 198m (649.6 ft); it has been deployed at several sites in Germany and Belgium.
Narec is proposing to build up to 15 offshore turbines near Blyth that will be up to 195m in height, dwarfing the two existing 93m offshore turbines. Five of the new turbines will be only 5.6km offshore.
Members of the Central Planning Committee approved an application for nine 125m turbines at the Maiden Hall site, near Widdrington, on 6 November.
The application was consented by 7 votes to 3, with 1 abstention. It had been recommended for approval by planners, who ignored overwhelming local opposition to the proposal.
Officers gave a confused and highly questionable explanation for their acceptance of the cumulative impacts of the scheme with the previously consented turbines south west of Widdrington and the complex of turbines in the Blyth-Lynemouth area. Little consideration was given to the sequential cumulative impacts on important tourist routes. Cumulative impacts on important viewpoints to the west of the site were glossed over by officers who based their recommendation on the argument that from some viewpoints the scheme would be seen as a single entity with the 4 consented 125m turbines at Widdrington.
Objections to the scheme were undermined by a late letter of support from parties involved in the Blue Sky regeneration scheme in the site area. Only time will tell whether the turbine scheme will prove an obstacle to this project. The weight of evidence suggests that tourism and large wind power stations do not mix.
German-owned speculative wind developer PNE Wind has joined the Spanish company Acciona in sniffing around the area between the Charltons and Eglingham. Twenty-eight 125m turbines are currently being built at Middlemoor and Wandylaw (marked below).
PNE Wind had a planning application for an 80m (262 ft) anemometer mast refused on 6 November, 2012 (NCC Ref. 12/02318/RENE). The site is on land owned by R. Robinson (Snipe House) Ltd. The height of the mast normally indicates the hub height of the prospective turbines, in this case giving a blade tip height of 125m (410 ft) or more.
Members of the planning committee voiced strong opposition to any further wnd development in this area which already faces the construction of the largest wind power station in England, on the edge of some of the most attractive heather moorland in Northumberland, close to the famous viewpoint at Ros Castle, owned by the National Trust.
On 7 August, NCC’s Central Planning Committee unanimously refused the application for two 34.2m turbines at East Moneylaws Farm, close to the Flodden Battlefield.
Members were highly critical of the Officer’s report which had recommended approval of the scheme on the basis that the (very small) amount of renewable energy generated outweighed the damage caused to the registered battlefield which the officer (who has since left to work for Amec) claimed would not be “substantial”.
Yet again members were forced to make a decision on the basis of selective and inadequate photomontages which did not follow the guidelines for wind turbine visualisations which NCC itself recommends.
Brian Daniel, The Journal, 9 June, 2012
‘A North council could be forced to review the way it handles controversial wind turbine applications after losing a battle with an anti-wind farm campaigner.
‘Northumberland County Council has conceded defeat in its fight with landowner Andrew Joicey over its handling of three approved applications for single turbines in the Berwick area.
‘The applicants behind the schemes have had now their planning permissions revoked and their bids will have to be redetermined.
‘The council is having to pay Cornhill farmer Mr Joicey’s costs of more than £10,000.
‘Mr Joicey, who was part of the Save our Unspoilt Landscape group which previously unsuccessfully fought plans for turbines at Barmoor, last night said the outcome would mean the council would have to handle future applications differently on matters like noise and cumulative impact.
‘High Court overturns planning consent for three Northumberland turbines’, Berwick Advertiser, 8 June, 2012.
‘WHAT a welcome legal victory for anti-wind turbine campaigner Andrew Joicey, who has provided Northumberland County Council with the perfect opportunity to undertake a fundamental review of how it deals with future planning applications. Let’s hope they take it. This region already has more than its fair share of onshore turbines.
They are one of the most inefficient sources of alternative energy, but also the most lucrative for the companies who erect them, thanks largely to the incentives on offer from a target-driven central government.
The previous Labour administration appeared blind to the economic argument that was staring it in the face.
We now have a Chancellor who is making noises about slashing the disproportionate subsidies on offer.
If and when that happens this newspaper will give due respect.
Opposing onshore wind farms does not mean you are a Nimby or environmentally unfriendly. Andrew Joicey, and others like him, deserve our respect –- and our thanks.
This world’s natural resources are being used up so quickly. It is not easy, therefore, to stand up and protest when others are, apparently, doing something positive about it.
But the words ‘misplaced’, ‘misguided’ and ‘too many’ are not out of place when it comes to turbines in Northumberland.
As we hope their councillors will recognise.’
The wind industry is always ready to use simplistic, outdated and, all too often, plain wrong, ‘evidence’ of unmet renewable energy targets to browbeat planners and bolster their demands for weaker planning controls and consents for ever more and larger turbine arrays.
It is more surprising that planning officers are guilty of the same exaggeration in officer reports, advice to councillors and evidence to public inquiries.
Bill Short is a business analyst who has made a study of Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) data on energy generation and renewables. The graphs from his latest technical analysis are presented here and his full paper is available as a download.(1)
The graphs shown here use official data published by DECC, as of 1 March, 2012.
The above graph shows cumulative energy generation from all renewable energy types including biomass. Note the 30% target marker.
Northumberland has a high level of approved biomass (NB The 100MW Blyth and the 300MW Tyne biomass power stations have not yet been approved and are not included, but the approved 300MW Alcan power station which may, or may not, continue after Alcan ceases aluminium production is included, as per the DECC database).
Even without the inclusion of biomass, the comparison between Northumberland and other counties is stark:
While the total capacity of operational wind farms in Northumberland is not exceptional, if we include those that are currently under construction, it is clear that Northumberland exceeds all other English counties.
Most that are currently under construction (including Lynemouth and Green Rigg) are expected to be completed this year and a considerable number of consented sites (including Barmoor, Boundary Lane, Kiln Pit Hill, Middlemoor, Wandylaw, Wingates and Blyth Harbour repowering) will start construction during 2012.
While the 10% target for 2010 was not met, it is very clear that the “aim” for 2020 will be met in the very near future, well before that date. It is also clear that even without the extensive biomass build, a 30% target for Northumberland is almost certain to be exceeded by a considerable margin, and with ease.
It is therefore inexcusable that council officers should mislead Councillors with statements such as:
“8.6 Policy 39 of the Regional Spatial Strategy seeks to facilitate the generation of at least 10% of the Regions consumption of electricity from renewable resources by 2010 and to aspire to increase this to 20% by 2020. The recent Kirkharle appeal decision recognised that the 2010 10% target for Northumberland had not been met by a substantial margin and there will be a very significant challenge in meeting the local target and Government objectives by 2020 [my emphasis].” (Officer’s Report, Wingates Moor turbine array, Application 11/00158/RENEIA, 22 February 2012).
Even if erroneous statements are made at a public inquiry, they should not continue to be parroted in a planning report without any evidence.
There is clear confusion created with the use of the term “local target” in conjunction with “10% target for Northumberland”.
This follows the case of a senior planner selectively quoting from a government policy document at a public meeting: “Targets should be expressed as the minimum amount of installed capacity for renewable energy in the region” (2) and then using this to argue that the percentage of electricity consumed was irrelevant when the full sentence read: “Targets should be expressed as the minimum amount of installed capacity for renewable energy in the region, expressed in megawatts, and may also be expressed in terms of the percentage of electricity consumed or supplied [our emphasis].” (3)
Allowance should also be made for the decline in energy consumption, mainly due to the recession. Original targets were set in relation to 2005 data (see graph), progress is therefore substantially underestimated.
Ironically, Rio Tinto, the owners of the Alcan aluminium smelter at Blyth, the largest industrial energy consumer in Northumberland (and its largest employer), recently cited the cost of energy and environmental taxes as the major factor in the final closure of the plant with the loss of 515 jobs.
While Durham is currently the wind farm “capital” of England, by the end of the summer of 2012 Northumberland will have overtaken it, when the wind farms now under construction are all switched on.
Those awaiting construction will take us well over any other region – over 9 times as much as Yorkshire, 14 times as much as the next highest region and 67 times as much as the South East!
Is this fair and balanced? Is it acceptable that NCC employees continue to recommend even more damage to Northumberland’s tourist landscapes and the amenity of local communities?
Is it right and proper that we should be subjected to 21 times more abuse than the average resident in the rest of England?
(1) Word doc. (1.2Mb file download).
(2) Interim Manager, Central Development Management Team, NCC, speaking at the Communities & Place Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting on 21 June, 2011 (NCC website).
(3) PPS22, 'Regional Targets', 3. (Available on the DCLG website).
An older version of Bill Short’s analysis as presented to NCC planners and members of the Communities & Place Overview & Scrutiny Committee us available as a Powerpoint presentation ( 3.7Mb ppt file download).
Make the most of our glorious landscapes. Twenty eight 125m turbines are now under construction at Middlemoor and Wandylaw, west of the A1, near North Charlton.
These turbines had been held up because of the effect they will have on defence radar systems at Brizlee Wood, near Alnwick, part of the UK Air Surveillance And Control System (ASACS). An American radar system is now to be fitted which is supposed to ameliorate the problems caused to defence radars.
Nothing can lessen the damage that will be caused by these 28 massive turbines to our tourist landscapes. They will scar views over a huge area, most especially from Ros Castle, favourite viewpoint of Viscount Grey of Fallodon (formerly Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary 1905-1916). In 1956 ROS Castle was presented to the National Trust as part of a national memorial to him. It is one of the best-loved viewpoints in Northumberland and stands above Chillingham Castle park with its wild cattle and the beautiful heather moorland of Hepburn Moor.
There will, of course, be much wider damage, extending to views from the Heritage Coast and the National Park.
Electricity consumers could be paying for subsidies worth c. £8.9 million per year just for the Middlemoor scheme (calculated using npower’s predicted 27% load factor - less than the wind industry’s claimed average for modern turbines - and the current average auction price of £45.17 per ROC, as of 24 January 2012).
These 28 turbines are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. Lynemouth (13 x 121.2m x 2MW) and Kiln Pit Hill (6 x 120m x 2MW) were recently completed and Green Rigg (18 x 110m x 2MW) is nearing completion.
Barmoor (6 x 110.5m x 3MW), Blyth Harbour repowering (7 x 130m x 3.4MW) and Boundary Lane (3 x 115m x 2MW) all started construction this summer.
Dozens more massive turbines have been consented or are in the planning pipeline.
Questions have continued to be raised about safety, regulation and costs to the community of turbine transport since the A696 was closed for a week when a giant transporter carrying part of a wind turbine tower crashed off the road at Raylees, near Elsdon.
The transporter was part of a convoy carrying turbine parts from Blyth to Green Rigg, near Ridsdale, where Wind Prospect are building 18 Vestas V80 turbines for French-owned EDF Energy. The transport route had been designated as the A68, but was changed by the delegated decision of a Northumberland County Council planning officer after a transporter had grounded on the southern section of the A68.
The Chinese-made tower section was eventually recovered on 31 May and returned, this time with a substantial police escort, to Blyth for inspection and repair.
Local people continue to query the suitability of this route and why the crashed transporter apparently did not have a proper police escort.
The Green Rigg turbines are, at 110m total height, with 39m blades, smaller than most turbines currently proposed in Northumberland, which are generally 125m high, with 45m blades. The Middle Hill proposal for nine 125m turbines close to where the transporter crashed, typifies these.*
The Chinese-made tower section that overturned at Elsdon is 45m long (147ft) and weighs 56 tonnes.
Questions remain on how this route was approved by Northumberland County Council and why the convoy, according to press reports, was travelling on this dangerous route without a police escort.
Local people say there has been a history of accidents on this road, some involving heavy military transporters heading for the Otterburn ranges.
Businesses in Otterburn have been seeking compensation for the thousands of pounds they lost due to the closure of the A696 for a week. But it is reported that EDF are ignoring compensation claims and are saying that a ‘goodwill gesture’ payment might eventually be made from the area community fund towards renovating the Sports Centre in Otterburn (see press story below).
This has a certain irony when you realise that Wind Prospect recently issued a press release entitled, ‘Northumberland Wind Farm Brings Boost to Region’s Businesses’.
The press report that the 18 Green Rigg turbine towers were manufactured in China for the Danish Vestas company. This information does not appear on the Wind Prospect website, which has a list of every single minor UK contract associated with the scheme.
* MHAG website.
‘A696 near Otterburn closed after turbine transporter crash’, The Journal, 29 May 2012.
‘Wind turbine recovery from Northumberland road “hurting trade”’, BBC News, 30 May 2012.
‘Wind turbine carrier crashed on A696 “safe” route’, The Journal, 30 May, 2012.
‘Operation to move wind turbine from A696 at Otterburn’, BBC News Video, 30 May, 2012.
‘Otterburn traders to seek compensation from wind farm group’, The Journal, 31 May, 2012.
‘Otterburn A696 ditch wind turbine is finally moved’, The Journal, 1 June, 2012.
‘I won’t pay my rates till losses are recouped’, The Journal, 4 June, 2012.
‘Windfall prospect for Otterburn village sports centre’, The Journal, 7 June, 2012.
Northumberland County Council are running a campaign which reveals their idealised view of turbines and their impacts.
The reality is very different, as shown in the corrected graphic which uses turbines scaled to currently used 125m models.
Dozens of very large industrial turbines are under construction or have been consented but not yet built in Northumberland (see our maps and site listings).
Many small first generation turbines, such as the 42.5m Blyth Harbour turbines, are being replaced (‘repowered’) with very much larger models.
The 130m replacements for Blyth’s harbour turbines will start construction in May, 2012.
Yet larger turbines are already under development, these are expected to be up to 250m high (820 ft).
For comparison, the Chatton TV mast in Northumberland is 152.9m high.
(See: The shape of things to come, Home Page).
‘Northumberland council wind turbine images not acurate says campaigner’, The Journal, 9 march, 2012.
A 130m (426 ft) REpower 3.4M104 turbine, the first of 7 replacements for the old 42.5m turbines, has been built at Blyth Harbour. 1
The old turbines had the dubious distinction of being the least productive in the UK, managing to produce only 3% of their headline capacity in 2010/11.
The new turbines have a blade diameter of 104m. With the 121m turbines at Lynemouth, they will be very visible over a large area of the coastal plain and far inland: the Lynemouth turbines alone are very visible from the A697 and A1.
Narec, Blyth, received yet another government grant in February 2010, this time for £18.5 million, for, “a grid connected offshore demonstration platform, with the capacity to accommodate up to 100MW of offshore wind power”, with turbines up to 195m high (639 ft) high. 2
An planning application to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has now benn approved (08/11/2013). A Non-Technical Summary is available from Narec. 3
This “demonstration facility for pre-commercial prototype offshore wind turbines” is scheduled to support 15 turbines, up to 195m (639 ft) in height (the existing offshore turbines are 93m high).
These will be sited as close as 6.5 km to the shore at Blyth/Newbiggin.
In all the publicity regarding the Habour and Offshore schemes there is a remarkable silence regarding Clipper Windpower and the grandiose ‘Britannia Project’ for a massive, 10MW, offshore turbine.
Narec had a development deal with Clipper windpower for this turbine which was supposed to feature in both Harbour and Offshore plans.
Many offshore industry experts had questioned the viability of this project from its inception in 2007. It finally folded in 2011 when the government pulled the plug on grant funding, “due to Clipper’s failure to meet financial and technical milestones”. 3
Northumberland Gazette, Saturday 11 February 2012.
‘Much-criticised wind turbines on the edge of Alnwick have been out of action for almost half the time they have been installed, according to figures released following a Freedom of Information Act request by the Gazette.
‘The statistics, provided by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), show that the three generators at its flagship Lion House were offline for a total of 494 days since they went live on March 2, 2009. By comparison, they were working for 581 days during the same period.
‘The problems arose after a world-wide recall by the turbine manufacturer, Proven Energy, which discovered a fault with its P-35 model in 2009. Proven finally went bust last September, but was sold by receiver KPMG to Irish renewables firm Kingspan Wind.
‘However, Kingspan has refused to honour any liabilities and warranties for P-35 turbines, while KPMG has said owners will not receive their money back. The taxpayer will now have to foot the bill to get them working again.
Northumberland Gazette, 12 January, 2012.
‘Wind turbines standing idle on the edge of Alnwick will not be repaired by the manufacturers, it has emerged, with the tax-payer likely having to foot the bill to get them working again.
‘Town councillor Sue Allcroft has been chasing the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) over the three generators at its flagship Lion House, which have rarely turned since mid-2010 following a worldwide recall of the that model – the P35 – by their Scottish-based manufacturer, Proven Energy.
‘Proven finally went bust last September, but was sold by receiver KPMG to Irish renewables firm Kingspan Wind.
‘However, Kingspan’s website states that all liabilities and warranties for P35 turbines remain with KPMG, as they did not form part of the buy-out deal.
Glendale Gateway Trust have voted to drop the controversial scheme for up to two 74m (242 ft) industrial turbines that they had planned to build, in partnership with CoRE, on scenic access land at Weetwood Moor, near Wooler.
At a full Board meeting on 12 October, 2011, they voted 7 to 2, with one abstention, to follow the recommendation of a report to abandon the project.
The minutes of the meeting record that:
The paper outlined the issues which Tom sees as insurmountable; a high level of borrowing, lack of confidence in the financial projections, little confidence in the deliverability of the project and the likelihood of widespread local opposition to the turbine. Tom’s report recommended withdrawal from the project. ... David B had received emails from 2 Trustees not at the meeting both of whom supported the recommendation.
Glendale Gateway Trust website.
‘War of words over Wooler wind turbine plan’, The Journal, 12 August, 2010.
‘Glendale Gateway Trust defends wind turbine plan’, The Journal, 19 August 2010.
Northumberland had, until recently, largely escaped what has been described as a tidal wave of applications for so-called ‘farm-size’ turbines that is afflicting the Borders and Lothians. There is every indication that this is now changing, as some agents are using highly exaggerated claims for the possible returns from Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) in order to sell turbine packages to landowners.
Individual turbines can be very substantial structures, often up to 80 metres in height, as at New Bewick (77.9m), East Coldcotes (77.9m), Shoreswood (74m) and Wark Common (71m). For comparison, the Angel of the North is only 20m high and the old commercial turbines at Blyth Harbour were 42.5m in height.
The piecemeal approval of large numbers of these turbines will change the character and quality of our tourist landscapes as surely as individual turbine parks which have been refused in the same areas on the basis of their unacceptable visual impacts.
We have heard some shocking stories regarding the techniques being used to sell these turbines. These can involve landowners being sucked into the expenditure of tens of thousands before they discover how exaggerated agents’ claims are and how unsuitable sites are in planning terms.
There are also major criticisms of the way Northumberland County Council planners are handling these applications, many of which are of astonishingly poor quality, considering their potential impacts.
They are almost never required to provide a full environmental impact assessment, though planning guidance reserves the right for an EIA to be required by the planning authority. They are also seldom required by NCC planners to produce a proper visual impact assessment. Applications are sometimes being decided on the basis of a handful of highly selective photomontages, often of very poor quality and not meeting any recognised guidelines.
All too often planning officers are ignoring planning guidance that has led to the refusal of groups of turbines in the same area.
A recent application (11/01423/FUL) for a 24m turbine at Unthank Blue House was recommended for approval and approved despite a total lack of any VIA material. This is surprising when the location of the turbine and its potential impacts on a “key view to the Cheviots” from the B6354 is considered.
The same application betrayed the attitude of NCC planners in its description. This, while downplaying the scale of the turbine - “The erection of a small scale 11 kw Gaia Wind Turbine” - had no mention of the turbine’s height. Visitors were forced to comb through the application documents and then do a calculation dividing turbine rotor diameter by two and adding the result to the tower height in order to discover the tip height of the turbine.
Other planning authorities use impartial descriptors and include the tip height of the turbine in planning notices and website headings.
Noise issues are also being ignored by planners and applicants. Applicants are getting away with supplying little more than the noise information supplied in a manufacturer’s brochure.
There are also examples of noise impacts being deliberately downplayed or hidden by applicants and not spotted by NCC planners or environmental health officers who have no expertise in this area. Planners are also using ‘cut and paste’ noise conditions from larger schemes, which are often inappropriate, defective or unenforceable.
They are also ignoring advice on environmental safeguards.
Natural England, Wildlife Trusts, bat groups 1 and even the companies pushing smaller turbines say that they should not be sited in or close to hedgelines due to the risks to bats without proper bat activity surveys.2 Yet an objection by Natural England on this point was ignored for a recently built 15m turbine at West Allerdean.
Just as planners in neighbouring authorities are applying much more rigorous criteria to single/smaller turbines, recommending refusal in very many cases, NCC is going in the opposite direction: recommending approval for nearly every application, however bad (we have only heard of two farm-scale wind turbines over 30m being recommended for refusal to date) - both on heritage grounds. This is leading to a growing suspicion that a secret policy of ‘presumed consent’ for farm-scale turbines is being applied by officers.
Parish councillors hear increasing numbers of complaints from the public that there is little point in having a development control system if a planning authority is going to ignore normal planning criteria and try to steamroller applications through against the opinion of local people and their representatives.
Members of the Northumberland County Council’s Planning and Environment Committee have sent out a clear message that they wish to protect rural Northumberland from very large single turbines in inappropropriate areas.
The committee decisively rejected proposals brought forward by agents George F White for two 77.9m (255 ft) turbines for landowners at East Coldcotes, Ponteland and New Bewick, near Eglingham.
Both schemes had been recommended for approval by NCC planners, despite an overwhelming weight of objections from local residents and questions about impacts on protected landscapes.
The East Coldcotes turbine was proposed by ‘Green Energy Ponteland Ltd’, a private company owned by Louis Fell, a partner in George F White, the agents for the proposal.
The site is on land owned by Peter Jackson, leader of the Conservative opposition group on Northumberland County Council. Mr Jackson initially claimed that he had no knowledge of the proposal. 1
The proposal was rejected by 9 votes to 2, with Councillors refusing to accept the planning officer’s claims that the scheme would not have significant impacts on the green belt and the amenity of nearby residents.
The New Bewick turbine, also presented by George F White for the landowner, was refused nem con, with one member abstaining from voting.
Several councillors presented impassioned arguments for the preservation of the unspoiled landscape in the area and rejected the officer’s claims that the turbine would have no significant vusual impacts on tourist landscapes. Councillors also questioned the claimed benefits for a turbine in a lowland, low wind area.
Claims by George F White’s representative that there was little local opposition to the scheme was met with laughter from the many members of the public who were present in the Council Chamber and was subsequently dismissed by Councillor Taylor who spoke of the unprecedented number of representations he had received from local people.
1 ‘Councillor urged to resign over Ponteland wind turbine plan’, The Journal, 1 December, 2011.
A poll in The Journal, referencing comments by Energy Minister Chris Huhne (see Home page), has echoed an exit poll of visitors to the Middleton Burn exhibition in Belford.
According to The Journal, “Some 79 people agreed with Mr Huhne that they [wind turbines] are indeed elegant. But those backing him were somewhat outweighed by the 767 who voted to say they considered turbines to be a blight on the landscape.” 1
The Middleton Burn exit poll showed that 250 of 267 visitors were against the scheme, only 10 were in favour, while 7 were undecided. 2
An exit poll of visitors to a presentation by Air Farmers on their scheme at Belford on Thursday, 29 September, 2011, shows that the overwhelming majority are against the scheme.
Visitors leaving the exhibition were given a ballot paper with the simple, unloaded question: “Having seen Air Farmers Ltd’s exhibition (29th September, 2011), are you FOR or AGAINST the Middleton Burn proposal for 16 125m (410 ft) wind turbines at Swinhoe Farm, Belford?”
The total responses were:
Against - 250
For - 10
Undecided - 7
Ballot papers have their authors’ contact details and are available for inspection by officers of the planning authority.
Air Farmers issued visitors with a long questionnaire with a sequence of leading questions designed to show support for wind power and their scheme.
Many of the people present refused to fill it in.
The MBAG website has now published a review of Air Farmer’s dodgy PResention.
‘Air Farmers Ltd’, a private wind development company based in London, are looking at developing a site at Swinhoe Farm, close to Belford. They are calling it ‘Middleton Burn’.1
The proposal currently consists of sixteen 125m (410 ft) turbines, though the company may well reduce the numbers and/or height in due course ‘in response to consulation’.
This massively exceeds anything contemplated in capacity studies for North Northumberland and would have cumulative impacts with consented schemes at Middlemoor, Wandylaw and Barmoor.2
This scheme would dominate views from Holy Island and the coastal AONB. It would be at the centre of a chain of turbines, from Middlemoor in the south to Barmoor and distantly visible turbines at Black Hill, Crystal Rig and Aikengall, on the Lammermuirs skyline.
The site borders St Cuthbert’s Cave (National Trust). Turbines would tower over the crest of the hill behind the site and destroy the peace of this much-loved place with the thumping beat of their blades (the company’s own noise predictions show that the noise would exceed the allowable limits at houses).
The turbines would also be as close as 200 metres to St Cuthbert’s Way, while the Northumberland Coastal Path/St Oswald’s Way runs through the site and again passes as close as 200m (a 2 kilometre separation distance from important tourist trails like these is required by Scottish Borders’ wind farm planning guidance).
The scheme is only 2.3 km from a major population centre at Belford.
This area has previously been seen as off limits to wind speculators due to its proximity to the heritage coast and the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve.3 The site borders the Holburn Moss SSSI and SPA; Holburn Lake is on the Ramsar list of Wetlands of International Importance.
It will have major impacts on the Kyloe Hills and Glendale Area of High Landscape Value.
All in all, it is hard to imagine a more inappropriate site for a large array of massive industrial turbines.
Air Farmers is a small and highly secretive privately-owned company which was only formed in 2008, it is based in London. The company has no previous history in wind development. It has just announced another proposal at Middle Hill on the boundary of the National Park close to Elsdon (see below).
Mr Jens Rasmussen, A Danish National is the managing director. At their exhibition he refused to reveal anything about the company or its financial backers other than the very little that appears on Company House records.
All that we did discover from Mr Rasmussen is that Air Farmers have resigned from RenewableUK, the wind industry trade body.
We were also surprised to discover that Air Farmers do not directly employ Mr Bob Morgan, the Middleton Burn and Middle Hill Project Manager. As recently as 2010 he was a development manager with developers Cornwall Light and Power, before forming his own consultancy company.
Response Group: Middleton Burn Action Group (MBAG).
Scoping documents should be available from Northumberland County Council’s Central Development Management Team: Tel. 01670 534055, Email - Central.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Developer website. You will find more information on the project on the MBAG website!
2 Arup’s capacity studies for the Charlton and Berwick areas can been downloaded from the archive website for strategy integration in North East England .
3 Natural England website.
‘Villagers flock to see windfarm plans’, Northumberland Gazette, 29 September, 2011.
‘Anger over wind farm plan’, Berwick Advertiser, 22 September, 2011.
‘Developer moves to allay Northumberland wind turbine worries’, The Journal, 20 September, 2011. (Recommended!).
‘New Belford wind farm plan set to spark controversy’, The Journal, 17 September, 2011.
The enlarged section in the picture shows workmen in the nacelle; the orange and yellow dots at the base of the turbine are more workmen.
These turbines are clearly visible on the skyline from 35km away in North Northumberland.
‘Air Farmers Ltd’, a privately-owned, speculative wind development company based in London, is looking at developing a turbine array on a site at Middle Hill, bordering the A696 and the National Park to the south east of Elsdon.
The proposal is likely to be for nine 125m (410 ft) turbines.
The turbine array would be close to Winter’s Gibbet, the National Park boundary and the scenic viewpoint at Battle Hill.
Another scheme, for sixteen 125m turbines at Ray Estate, is close by; it was consented in 2010 after a public inquiry. A further proposal, for twenty-two 120m turbines in Harwood Forest (‘Ray 2’), close to the east, is also at the pre-application stage. At the time of writing it still has an anemometer mast in situ, although its planning permission has long expired.
Sign the ‘Oppose Middle Hill Wind Farm Development’ i-Petition.
‘Fierce criticism of wind turbine plans’, The Journal, 19 September, 2011.
‘Anger as landmark is earmarked for windfarm’, Hexham Courant, 15 August 2011.
‘Fury at “Victorian Disneyland” slur’, Northumberland Gazette, 11 August 2011.
‘Uproar at plans to build wind turbines at Elsdon’, The Journal, 9 August, 2011.
A deal done between the Ministry of Defence and the wind industry to buy American radar sets may open the way for a new wave of large-scale turbine parks in Northumberland.
Applications such as Middlemoor have been dogged by MOD objections due to problems caused to military radars. Moving turbine blades can mimic the signal from aircraft or missiles and could cloak attacks.
The wind industry has now struck a deal to purchase 2 Lockheed Martin TPS-77 3D mobile radars, costing £20 million each. A third, at Trimingham in Norfolk, will be part-funded by DECC, industry and the Crown Estate.
It is reported that the MOD has confirmed that the purchase of a radar set for Brizlee Wood will be announced in the coming weeks, with installation during the next 18 months.1
This will allow North British Windpower’s 48 turbine Fallago Rig project, on land owned by the Duke of Roxburghe, to be built. It should also unblock other turbine schemes with radar problems in the Borders and Northumberland.
However, it will not only expose areas such as the Lammermuirs, which already have huge numbers of operating and/or consented turbines to yet more applications, but it will will also open up areas that were previously ‘off limits’ due to radar impacts.
The costs of this will, like subsidies and grid strengthening to cope with erratic wind power generation, be passed on to the electricity consumer.
Dr John Constable of the Renewable Energy Foundation said to the Telegraph:
The 27 gigawatts of wind power thought by government to be enabled over the next decade if aviation objections are lifted will cost the electricity consumer approximately £164 billion in subsidy alone over the life time of the wind turbines, around 25 years.
That is a sum nearly five times the annual cost of the entire Ministry of Defence: Army, Navy and RAF combined. Coming at a time of constrained budgets, not least in the MoD, there will be intense and justified questions about the value for money represented by public subsidies on this scale.2
Mark Rowley, who heads the Say No to Fallago campaign, is quoted in the same article as saying:
If even a fraction of the extra schemes are consented, this important gateway to Scotland will become a 21st century Hadrian’s Wall made of 400 foot turbines stretched across some of the finest landscapes in Scotland.
The wind industry’s trade body includes the following in its list of ‘Top Myths About Wind Energy’:
11. Myth: Wind farms negatively affect tourism
15. Myth: Wind farms are noisy 1
Meanwhile, in the real world ...
Wind Prospect Developments recently won planning permission for eighteen 110m turbines at Green Rigg, near Sweethope Lough in Tynedale, Northumberland. They have once more objected to plans for a tourist development nearby.
Sherod Walker had plans for the eco-friendly Waterfalls holiday park and equestrian centre refused by Northumberland County Council earlier this year, his appeal is due to be heard in February.
The project was expected to create 106 temporary jobs and 67 full-time posts. It would have put £2m a year into the local economy and was backed by local organisations, the naturalist David Bellamy and 330 individual supporters.
The county council turned down the plans on the basis of visual impact – the issue upon which Mr Walker is taking the case to appeal.
He has now submitted a second application for a smaller development of three holiday cottages and two stables on land next to his house on the Waterfalls estate.2
Once again he is facing objections from Wind Prospect, whose turbines are only 450 metres from the Waterfalls park boundary.
Again they say that noise from the wind farm, which is not yet fully operational, must be taken into account in considering the new development.
In a letter from their solicitors regarding the first proposal Wind Prospect stated that:
... this is a proposed holiday centre, where patrons would reasonably expect to sit outside to enjoy the relative peace and quiet of the countryside. [...] Noise from the permitted wind energy development will be very likely to provoke complaints, and this will place both the [NCC] Environmental Health Department and the wind farm operator in an impossible position: a complaint about noise could be found to be justified, and construed as a noise nuisance, even though the wind farm was operating lawfully within the constraints of its planning conditions. 3
So, it appears that a wind development company is admitting that:
wind turbine developments can seriously affect the peace and quiet of the countryside;
wind turbine developments can cause a noise nuisance within the grounds of a nearby property where noise has been monitored;
wind turbine developments can harm or restrict tourism;
complaints about turbine noise may be justified even though the turbine scheme is, “operating lawfully within the constraints of its planning conditions”.
1 Renewable UK (formerly known as the British Wind Energy Association) ‘Top Myths About Wind Energy’.
2 ‘Boss takes on wind farm in new battle’, The Journal, 20 November, 2010.
3 Letter from Hammonds LLP, 11 June 2010, to Northumberland County Council planning department (letter and map linked here).
The Duke of Northumberland, the largest landowner in Northumberland and the person with perhaps the greatest single, personal responsibility for preserving the our countryside and heritage, has spoken out on his reasons for opposing industrial wind power stations in the Northumbrian countryside:
R CURRAN asks (The Journal letters 25th November) why I am silent on the wind farm issue.
As I and my forebears have opened quarries and mines, built offices, schools and supermarkets, a considerable number of houses and been involved in a wide range of other developments which occasionally provoke local opposition, I could stand accused of double standards if I became publicly involved in the wind farm debate in our region.
However, I have privately stated my opposition and personally written to councillors to state that opposition. There are no wind farms on my family estate and I have repelled all requests to apply for them.
I have studied the debate, arguments and statistics and come to the personal conclusion that wind farms divide communities, ruin landscapes, affect tourism, make a minimal contribution to our energy needs and a negligible contribution towards reducing CO2 emissions.
The landowner and developer are enriched while the consumer is impoverished by higher energy costs.
Turbines are ugly, noisy and completely out of place in our beautiful, historic landscape.
Their requirement for vast amounts of concrete and, in some cases, the destruction of large areas of peat add significant amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere so that it takes many years for them to provide a real benefit.
They generate intermittently, require back-up from traditional or nuclear power and, in some of our most beautiful countryside, necessitate the erection of many miles of large pylons and high capacity lines.
As I am a private, unelected and relatively apolitical individual, Mr Curran’s view that I am the most influential voice in Northumberland is somewhat unrealistic. However, if my personal opinion has any effect on diminishing the threat from vast industrial machines in our landscape, I will be delighted.Duke of Northumberland
It is worth noting that the Duke is not alone in refusing to have power stations on his land, the overwhelming majority of leading landowners in Northumberland have refused tens of millions (paid from our electricity bills) being offered by speculative wind developers.
In our area, examples include Ford and Etal Estates (Lord Joicey), Lambton Estates (Lord Lambton) and Lilburn Estates (Duncan Davidson).
Nor is it only the big landowners. The great majority of responsible farmers put their role as custodians of the landscape and good neighbours ahead of easy, unearned money from wind turbines that would damage the landscape, local tourist businesses and the wellbeing of their neighbours.
reNews, 19 August, 2011.
‘The troubled Clipper 10MW offshore turbine project Britannia has been kicked into the long grass by US parent company UTC. The decision has forced the Crown Estate to abandon plans to erect a prototype of the machine in the UK [at Blyth].
‘Crown officials confirmed this week that the Britannia deal was off the table and that UTC had repaid the £1.6m plus VAT invested by the estate in the turbine project.
‘A spokesperson said the “aims and objectives of the (Clipper) investment had been achieved” because the offshore turbine market had been “stimulated” as a result.
‘reNews reported doubts about the future of the turbine’s development as long ago as October 2010, when UTC grabbed 100% of Clipper. Company sources reacted angrily at the time to reports of a “crisis meeting”.
‘A second reNews story, in May 2011, revealed that millions of pounds in UK government grant funding for development of the machine had been withdrawn due to Clipper’s failure to meet financial and technical milestones.
‘Companies linked to the Clipper 10MW project included David Brown Gear Systems and Narec. It is unclear how they will be impacted by the decision to ice Britannia.
‘The Crown Estate has been reluctant to provide any information about its tie-up with Clipper, despite a schedule that originally envisioned an operational demonstrator in 2010.
‘It said as recently as May that it was continuing to work with the turbine outfit on an updated programme for the project.
‘Support for Clipper included £5m from One North East to build a blade manufacturing facility at the Neptune Yard on Tyneside. That is expected to be mothballed.*
‘Clipper was also named as a finalist by the UK government in the upcoming NER 300 funding round. The proposal, to deploy a 10MW machine off Blyth in Northumberland, is expected to be withdrawn.
‘Clipper announced its Britannia project in October 2007. At the time established turbine manufacturers questioned the logic of putting so much government backing behind an untried offshore technology.’
* See: One NorthEast press release (PDF file).
The regional press has, at last, published a sanitised version of the story, see: ‘Wind turbine firm Clipper halts North East investment’, The Journal, 24 August, 2011.
Giant US industrial conglomerate United Technologies dumped Clipper Windpower soon after its acquisition.
Associated Press reports Drexel Hamilton analyst Rick Whittington as calling Clipper a “misbegotten acquisition.”.
It is reported that Clipper have ceased building new turbines and that a major customer is seeking to freeze the company’s assets — including its Cedar Rapids factory and equipment — to ensure it can pay a possible arbitration settlement of a lawsuit regarding $59.5 million in advance payments for wind turbines it no longer produces.
By February, Clipper will consist of “somewhere under 100 employees.”, and it is likely that the only part of the company to live on will be servicing the proprietary gearboxes in its 739-turbine fleet.
‘United Technologies to sell wind, rocket engine businesses to finance $16.5B Goodrich deal’, Washington Post/Bloomberg Business, 15 March, 2012.
‘Customer seeking to freeze Clipper Windpower assets, including Cedar Rapids factory’, The Gazette, 4 November, 2012.
‘Clipper chops South Coast jobs, operations’, Pacific coast business times, 16 November, 2012.
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