Anti-wind farm campaigners in Northumberland have voiced anger after planned turbine sites were removed a proposed Green Belt.
People at Fenrother and Wingates, north of Morpeth, have expressed disbelief after discovering that Northumberland County Council’s latest proposals for expansion of Green Belt around the town have been scaled back and no longer cover two planned wind farm sites.
The move comes just two months after the council told a public inquiry into the Fenrother turbine project that it should be refused as the site was in a proposed Green Belt area.
The defined Green Belt around Morpeth originally covered areas south and east of the town. An extension to the green belt around the town was identified in the 1996 Northumberland Structure Plan, with a revised version in 2005 defining plans to expand it west of Netherwitton, Hartburn and Belsay, and north of Longhorsley.
The review of the Castle Morpeth Local Plan was not adopted before local government reorganisation in 2009, however, and in February this year, the county council began consultation on its core strategy.
In the authority’s latest proposals released for consultation earlier this month, the expansion of the Green Belt around Morpeth has been reduced.
The latest version has removed from the proposed Green Belt extension planned wind farm sites at Fenrother and near Rayburn Lake, between Wingates and Netherwitton. The omission of Fenrother is despite the county council arguing at the inquiry into the turbine project in August that it should not be allowed given that the site was within the proposed extended Green Belt.
Last night, Dr James Lunn, who has led reisdents in fighting the Fenrother wind plan, said: “It appears that the council have decided to move the green belt primarily away from areas where there is activity for wind farms. I feel it is suspicious.
“This is a public consultation and it is something the public will no doubt have strong views about. We will be submitting our thoughts and feelings.
“The council will have to do a lot to explain why it should not be green belt when there is no pressure for housing in that area.”
John Thompson, chairman of Wingates not Wind Farms action group, said he expects an application to be submitted for the wind site at Rayburn Lake in the near future.
He last night said: “Obviously it is a concern if they are going to effectively alter the boundary and allow the Rayburn site to be outside whatever boundary they come up with. It just moves the goalposts.
“We had the area of least constraint for wind farms but this seems to be opening up the area for wind farms to be sited.”
The council last night said it would have been inappropriate to refer to emerging policy at the Fenrother inquiry, and said the new proposals had not been formulated at the time.
It also stated that application would be determined based on existing policy, which regards the site as proposed Green Belt, and that only “very limited weight” could be attached to emerging policies.
Coun Allan Hepple, policy board member responsible for planning, said: “Proposals on Green Belt could not be formulated until the detailed work on population projections, household formation and housing and employment land requirements had been completed.
“That work has been undertaken throughout this summer and has informed the preparation of the new consultation document.
“Remember, no decisions have been taken yet, local communities and other stakeholders will have full opportunity to make comments on the proposals. A number of consultation events are planned which will run from October 31 until 2 January 2, 2014.”