CALLS were made last night for a slowdown in wind farm approvals in Northumberland - amid claims the county is doing far more than its fair share on meeting renewable energy targets.
Local environmental campaigners say England’s most northerly county has already approved four times as much wind generation as any other county outside the North East.
They claim Northumberland is already meeting renewables targets set for 2060 – and it is now ‘time to take stock’ in terms of how many more massive turbines should be given the green light.
A report has been compiled by veteran environmental campaigner and retired business analyst Bill Short of Kirkwhelpington, using statistics from the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
Along with Karen Archbold from the pressure group Campaign for Responsible Energy Development in Tynedale – which in 2009 opposed plans for 59 turbines on three sites near Kirkwhelpington – he has now outlined its findings to county councillors.
The report says Northumberland consumes 172mw of energy a year on average. Achieving the national target of generating 20% of that from renewable sources by 2020 involves 34mw.
However, the county already has approvals for wind turbines totalling 273mw. Mr Short says that when this capacity is converted into actual generation, it still amounts to 76mw. That is double the 2020 target, and even in excess of the 2060 target of 40% from renewables.
He says the figures don’t include the biomass power station planned for Battleship Wharf near Blyth, which would add a further 100mw of renewable generating capacity.
Mr Short said about 100 turbines had now been built or approved in Northumberland. “Northumberland is way ahead of any other county in England for onshore wind farm approvals, apart from County Durham, yet nobody has even the grace to show some appreciation. Should we not be shouting to all and sundry just how well we are doing in cleaning up every other county’s CO².
“We are doing far more than our fair share and it is time to take stock on targets. Northumberland has met and exceeded – in terms of consented applications – the targets required, and can now afford to be more selective about what else we’ll accept.” Mr Short’s report says Northumberland has approved 10 times as much wind generation as all but six other counties in England, 20 times as much as the average and 40 times more than some.
He and Mrs Archbold have asked the council to confirm the figures in the report and make them official. They are also calling on the authority to re-establish ‘robust and effective’ policy control in response to ‘excessive’ wind farm proposals.
Their presentation was made to the west area committee of the council. Committee chairman, Coun Colin Horncastle, said: “We found it extremely interesting. Whenever the council considers a new wind farm application there is always a mention of the need to meet renewables targets, but we appear to be already meeting our requirements for as far ahead as 2060.”
No one from the council’s planning department was available to comment.