PLANS to build Europe’s biggest and most powerful wind turbine on the Northumberland coastline look set to finally get the green light – after the Government ruled out the need for a public inquiry.
The massive machine – which would tower 163 metres (534ft) from base to blade tip – is planned for the Battleship Wharf site next to the River Blyth and would be the largest land-based turbine seen so far in Europe.
It is one of seven new turbines which will be built to replace the existing Blyth Harbour Wind Farm, which has been producing renewable energy since 1993. The other six will stand 125m from base to blade tip.
Wansbeck councillors approved the plans in principle seven months ago, but the final go-ahead has been stalled because of an objection submitted by Newcastle Airport.
Airport officials called for the council’s decision to be called in by the Government and a public inquiry held to examine fears that the turbines will interfere with air traffic control radar and cause safety and operational problems.
Now Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has decided not to intervene – paving the way for the council to ratify its previous decision and issue final approval.
The plans will see site operator Hainsford Energy replace the existing nine turbines along Blyth’s East Pier with seven machines which are more than three times taller. The scheme will increase the site’s generating capacity from 2.7 megawatts to almost 23mw.
The massive 7.5mw turbine planned for Battleship Wharf will be capable of powering between 4,000 and 5,000 homes on its own. It will be more than three times higher than Nelson’s Column, four times higher than Grey’s Monument and eight times taller than the Angel of the North.
Newcastle Airport managers say the height of the new structures means they would be likely to create “clutter” on radar screens and be confused with aircraft. They also claim they might have to create an exclusion zone around the wind farm and re-route flights by at least five nautical miles, increasing the airport’s carbon footprint and noise over homes.
Yesterday Charles Rose, director of Hainsford Energy, said there were still a number of formalities to be completed, but he was hopeful that final planning consent will be forthcoming shortly, following the Government’s ruling. He believes giant turbines like the one proposed at Battleship Wharf will become icons for the whole wind energy industry.
Newcastle Airport’s head of planning and corporate affairs, Graeme Mason, conceded that the secretary of state’s decision meant a public inquiry would not now be held. “We are having discussions with Wansbeck Council about some concerns we still have, and are trying to determine whether these concerns can be overcome.”
A council spokesman said: “The minister has concluded that her intervention in the planning decision is not warranted, and stated that Wansbeck Council can issue the planning approval notice if it is still minded to do so.”
Expert aviation and legal advice obtained by the council has already concluded that January’s decision to grant planning permission is sound, and there is no need to change it. Consultants advised that the airport had not demonstrated the seven turbines would have an adverse effect on operational safety.