Hexham MP backs Otterburn traders' wind turbine dispute

A NORTHUMBERLAND MP has stepped into village traders’ fight for compensation from a wind energy giant.

Joanne and Gordon Moore and the striken Otterburn wind turbine transporter

A NORTHUMBERLAND MP has stepped into village traders’ fight for compensation from a wind energy giant.

Traders at Otterburn claim they lost thousands of pounds when the main road into the village was closed for five days after a wind turbine transporter crash at the end of May.

Hexham MP Guy Opperman has fired off a letter to EDF Renewables Chief Executive Vincent de Rivaz demanding to know the company’s compensation proposals.

The traders, currently formulating their damages claims, met council road bosses in Otterburn yesterday to discuss measures to be taken in the aftermath of the crash.

Euan Pringle, who owns Otterburn Mill, and Gordon Moore, boss of the Border Reiver village shop, both confirmed they were drawing up claims to be lodged via site agents Vestas.

Mr Opperman said in his letter to Mr de Rivaz: “This has had a crippling effect on local trade in my constituency and I have received reports that some of my local businesses’ income has halved.

“I would like to know what proposals you are drawing up to compensate the town and its businesses, and how you plan to administer this.” No reply has yet been received. Mr Moore, who last night repeated his intention of withholding his business rates until adequate compensation was secured, said: “That particular week ahead of the Jubilee Bank Holiday was worse than the effects of foot and mouth 11 years ago – and that is saying something.

Guy Opperman
Guy Opperman

“Our losses were 34% – and rising.”

Mr Pringle added: “I am now formulating my claim for losses in business.”

Traders including village hotel manager Angus Benson also sought assurances over police escorts for future convoys after it was confirmed the transporter which toppled into a roadside ditch early in the morning of May 28 was travelling from Blyth harbour without the recommended police escort.

Mr Moore said: The question has got to be asked – why did that particular convoy leave without a police escort?”

But county council network manager Dick Phillips said: “We advised them to have a police escort but it is only advice. We cannot force them to move with a police escort.”

Since the accident, all A696 turbine convoys have travelled with a police escort.

Originally, Northumberland county Council recommended a direct route via the A68 but when it was found the 100-tonne-plus abnormal load carriers scraped the undulating road surface, an alternative route via the A696 was introduced. But locals concerned at the tight bends of the A696 were angered that they were not told, and bus operators who conduct a school run said the safety of children was being put at risk.

Plans are now in place for double convoys from overseas coming in separately at Blyth Harbour and North Blyth to link up at an agreed point on the A1 so a single police escort can join them.

Mr Phillips said the hauliers were “complaining bitterly” at the cost of eight police cars, while the police said they did not have the resources to man two convoys. The council has also apologised for contractors failing to remove all the ‘Road Closed’ signs after repair work.

Mr Moore went out late at night on June 1 to take away the final sign which had been left in place on the A696 to the north of Otterburn.

 

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