MINISTERS must act to stop the North East becoming the “land of wind turbines”, a North MP has warned.
Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson said that it was time for the rest of the country to share the burden as well as the benefits of renewable energy.
Mr Wilson was speaking ahead of a Parliamentary debate he has secured today on controversial plans that could see England’s biggest wind farm built in his constituency.
The debate in Westminster Hall comes amid wider fears that Government proposals to overhaul the planning system could see even more turbines built.
Anti-wind farm campaigners in neighbouring Northumberland are also worried that the Government’s proposals to change the planning laws could see an avalanche of new applications.
Last night, a spokesman for the website Windbyte, which is based south of Berwick and monitors wind farm proposals in the North East said: “I would agree with him.
“It is not just what you see operating, it is the number of planning applications, there are huge numbers of turbine applications in Northumberland which have not been built yet but they will be when the companies get round to doing it.
“We are already exceeding future targets and we are exceeding 2020 targets in Northumberland and I believe Durham are almost on the 2020 target.”
Energy firm E.on has set out plans for between 25 and 45 turbines on a 7.5 square mile site called The Isles, east of Newton Aycliffe. If it wins approval, the scheme could generate enough electricity to power 53,000 homes a year.
Mr Wilson said: “In County Durham, there are already 16 wind farms with another that has been given planning consent but hasn’t been built yet.
“I am against this because of the cumulative impact of having so many wind farms in one area. If it was the only wind farm and there were no other wind farms in County Durham, I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on and the local people wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.
“Everybody wants to share the benefits but I also think we have got to share the burden.”
He claimed the wind farm could make E.on £570m over 25 years, but 54% of that was made up of subsidies equalling £235 annually for each of the 53,000 homes that could be powered by the site.
“County Durham is seen as the Land of the Prince Bishops. I don’t want to see it turned into the land of wind turbines,” said Mr Wilson.
An E.on spokesman said it was responding to Government policy requiring energy companies to produce more of their supplies from renewable sources. “Clearly, we are very aware of the depth of feeling in the local area. But we don’t have a final design for it yet,” he added.
The spokesman also said the company was investing in other energy sources, including energy and marine, in other parts of the country.
Mr Wilson challenged energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker in the Commons about the proliferation of wind farms in the North East in July.
Mr Barker said the Labour MP made an important point, but he could not comment on individual schemes.
The Parliamentary debate comes amid a row over Government plans to overhaul planning laws in a bid to drive the economy.
The National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have mobilised rural opposition to the plans, claiming they lead to more pressure on councils to approve wind farms in the countryside, with larger sites being decided at a national level.
Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith said: “Ministers have not made it clear whether their proposed ‘presumption’ in favour of development applies to wind farms. In my view it ought not to and I am raising those issues with ministers.”
We are exceeding 2020 targets in Northumberland and I believe Durham are almost on the 2020 target