The prospect of a rural landscape in north Northumberland hosting one of the biggest installations of wind turbines in the country has come a step closer following an appeal decision.
Edinburgh-based renewable energy company PNE Wind UK has been given the green light to put up an 80-metre temporary mast to test wind conditions at Ditchburn, north of the village of Eglingham.
The mast is likely to pave the way for an application to build up to nine turbines on the site, which is close to the existing wind farms at Middlemoor and Wandylaw, north of Alnwick.
Worried locals say future planning approval for the Ditchburn site would effectively create one large wind farm, comprising 37 giant turbines.
County councillors rejected the PNE Wind application for the test mast last November, despite being recommended to approve it by planning officers.
At the time, local objectors raised fears over the damaging cumulative impact of a wind farm on the site, given its close proximity to the Middlemoor and Wandylaw turbines.
They also cited concerns over the long-term impact on the open countryside and the tourism industry.
PNE Wind lodged an appeal against the refusal with the Planning Inspectorate, which has now been allowed.
Yesterday David Alston, who chairs Eglingham Parish Council, said there was significant local concern about the prospect of a third wind farm in the area.
“I think there is a general feeling that enough is enough, and that with 28 turbines already built at Middlemoor and Wandylaw we have done our bit. Any further turbines would be too many.
“There is very strong public feeling about this and 40 to 50 people came along to a parish council meeting to express their views about this test mast.
“A wind farm at this site would be equally as visible as the other two, if not more so,” he added.
Yesterday PNE Wind welcomed Government Planning Inspector George Baird’s decision to overturn the county council’s rejection of the monitoring mast.
Laura Jeffrey, the company’s project development manager, said any future wind farm scheme at Ditchburn would be designed “almost as an extension” to the nearby Middlemoor site, in order to mitigate visual impacts. She said: “The idea is that it would look like one single wind farm.
“This is our first project in Northumberland and we are very pleased that we now have permission to erect the temporary meteorological mast, which will gather wind data at the site for up to five years.
“This is the beginning of the planning consultation process for us, and over the next year we will ensure that the communities closest to the site are kept fully informed and consulted about all aspects of the Ditchburn wind farm project, which will investigate the feasibility of up to nine turbines on the site.”