A couple fighting plans for a wind farm near their rural home have been told they can avoid having to look at the massive turbines – by growing a 17ft-high hedge around their property.
Martin and Sarah Shotton – who enjoy panoramic views out towards the coastline from their isolated Northumberland cottage – were left dumbfounded by the suggestion on how they can hide the machines from view.
The idea has been put forward as part of evidence submitted on behalf of green energy company Energiekontor UK to an imminent public inquiry.
Mr and Mrs Shotton are among many local people who are opposing the firm’s bid to build five, 126-metre-high turbines on farmland between their home, near Longhorsley, and the neighbouring hamlet of Fenrother.
Planning permission was refused by the county council earlier this year after the scheme sparked more than 1,600 letters of protest.
Energiekontor appealed against the decision and a six-day public inquiry will be held in Morpeth later this month. In evidence submitted to the inquiry by architects on behalf of the company, Mr and Mrs Shotton’s Moor Edge Cottage, next to the A697, is said to have direct views towards the proposed turbines.
The document says that if a conifer hedgerow, which has been planted around the boundary of their garden, was allowed to grow to 5.4 metres (17ft 7ins) it would “screen all views of the turbines”.
It also says further tree planting near the boundary of their garden or closer to the house would help to protect views – but they would have to wait eight years for them to grow high enough.
The couple, who live with their sons James, 21, and William, 15, have joined with another local wind farm opponent to criticise the statements.
Mr Shotton, 48, who runs his own building company, said: “I think this is totally outrageous and absolutely farcical. It shows that Energiekontor are clutching at straws.
“Our hedge was planted three years ago, and is currently less than a metre high. They are suggesting we let it grow to 5.4m, which is higher than some prison walls. We would feel like prison inmates with a hedge that high.
“We live in the countryside and we bought the property partly because of the views. This would completely ruin them.”
Dr James Lunn, who lives in Fenrother and heads the local action group opposing the wind farm scheme, added: “This is one of the most disingenuous statements I have ever come across in a wind farm application, and is a great insult to local people.
“We accept there is no fundamental right to a view but people do have a right to light, and should be able to enjoy their property in the way it has been designed.
“It is a mark of Energiekontor’s desperation and arrogance that a suggestion like this is even made.”
But Energiekontor project manager Sam Dewar claimed the architects’ submission to the inquiry was being misinterpreted.
“We still believe that our environmental impact assessment, as submitted to the planning authority in August 2012, demonstrates that the relationship between this property and the proposed wind farm would be acceptable, even as things stand now.
“The extra evidence which has been submitted to the inquiry basically states that if the existing hedgerow were to be allowed to continue growing, and exceed 5.4 metres in height, then all views to the wind farm would be screened.
“This is a matter of fact, rather than a suggestion or request, and is up to the residents involved.”
This is a matter of fact, rather than a suggestion or request, and is up to the residents