PLANS to build nine wind turbines close to a protected monument in the Northumberland countryside are attracting fierce criticism.
A London-based energy company has laid plans to install the 125-metre turbines just over a kilometre from Winter’s Gibbet at Middle Hill, on the moors near the hamlet of Elsdon, near Otterburn.
The replica gibbet was erected to commemorate the hanging of 18th-Century murderer William Winter, whose body was suspended in chains on the site for his 1791 killing of Margaret Crozier in Elsdon.
It is one of three Grade Two-listed heritage sites which would fall within view of the wind farm.
Angry locals who fear the attraction of the area will be destroyed have swiftly formed an action group and say they will fight Middle Hill Renewables Ltd to preserve their landscape.
The Middle Hill Action Group has already launched its own website and has set about gathering support from surrounding communities since its formation last week.
Yesterday the developers came face to face with locals at a consultation exercise in Elsdon Village Hall.
The usual Sunday peace of the village was broken by a steady stream of visitors to the hall, where Middle Hills Renewables directors Jens Rasmussen and Bob Morgan answered a torrent of questions.
Mr Rasmussen said: “We are listening to the concerns as part of the consultation process, then we will form our opinions.
“The final application has not been made yet, but this area is one of the best and most suitable sites for wind farms.
“There are many parties to be consulted with and we would expect feedback from the planning authority in due course. We would then act on their feedback.”
Middle Hill Renewables has spent three years preparing its application and has presented detailed plans. And there is already growing antagonism towards the company among the people who will be affected.
John and Nicola Tait own one of five houses within a kilometre of the Middle Hill site, and Mr Tait said: “We are prepared to fight and fight.
“Once the view is spoiled, it will be spoiled for 25 years at least.
“We came here for space and a little bit of land to retire to but we won’t get it if this goes ahead.
“The wind farm would dominate the skyline and be visible from the Cheviots.”
Heather Robson, of the action group, said: “The plans have come as a big surprise to us. Tourists would be put off from coming here and the damage to this beautiful region would be massive.
“This is also an important wildlife zone, with curlews, lapwings, bats, voles, buntings and adders. It is also bog land, and building there will release huge amounts of Co2.”
Elsdon Parish Council clerk Roger Bolam said: “Winter’s Gibbet is a red herring as there are Grade One listed sites, a pele tower and church – but they are just outside the two-kilometre zone Middle Hill Renewables have outlined.” Parish council chairman Keith Maddison added: “This is the first meeting they have had with the community and at the moment the parish council can only comment on the scoping report.
“We have to reserve our position until we know what the situation is. We shall be discussing the issue at our next meting on October 4.”
Mr Rasmussen admitted that the development, if it goes ahead, would be visible up to 35 kilometres away to the coastal villages of Warkworth and Amble, as well as south-east to the fringes of Newcastle.
However, he said it would generate power for up to 22,000 homes and up to £62,100 in local business rates.
The developers have also pledged a community fund in the region of £54,000 a year, which could mean £1.35m over the 25-year span.
“It will depend on the size of the project,” Mr Rasmussen added.
“But the intention is for us to engage and make sure the neighbouring communities get benefits out of the project.
“We strongly believe that the benefits of generating electricity from a free, self-replenishing and non-polluting natural resource will outweigh any local impacts of the proposed wind farm.”