A RACECOURSE boss last night defended plans for wind turbine energy as “essential” for the course’s future.
Charles Enderby, chief executive of Hexham Racecourse, said there was no alternative to the turbines in the face of a looming six-figure drop in Levy Board income.
Opposition to proposals for two 150ft turbines on the picturesque hilltop course at Hexham is growing ahead of an application going before county planners.
John Barker of Whitfield, who is leading early objections, said: “This is an elevated site in an area of high landscape value very close to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty boundary.
“There is a very powerful principle at stake here because if permission for this scheme is given ‘on-the-nod’, then developers will feel they can put their turbines simply anywhere.”
Mr Barker is urging “anyone and everyone” to join him in opposition, and pleading with the racecourse to explore alternatives such as solar panels.
But Mr Enderby insisted: “We have explored everything, and borne these things in mind, but it is essential to have wind turbine energy – we could not put solar panels on the racecourse.
“The reason it is essential is that income from the Horse Racing Levy Board will decline considerably this year and next – in the region of £150,000 to £200,000. In company with all other racecourses, we are having to look at alternative forms of income.
“Two turbines would generate enough to keep the racecourse going and save us tens of thousands of pounds, as well as generating power for 320 homes in the area.
“Depending on Newcastle Airport’s response in relation to its radars, one larger turbine if necessary would be able to do the same job. I’m desperately keen that Hexham, which has been around since 1890, should survive as a racecourse and I find it vital to search for other forms of income.”
However, Mr Barker added: “How this can best be achieved needs further careful thought. It is not proven that only wind-energy can deliver the financial gain required, and other green means should be explored.
“Our unspoilt open countryside is our greatest asset, and it supports the already fragile tourist attractions we hold so dear. I care about this very much and appeal to anyone and everyone who feels similarly to join me in some action.”
But Mr Enderby responded: “We have explored all alternatives and this is the only answer. It is not a wind farm – it is just two turbines, or even one, and it’s something the Government and our county council believes in.
“I hope I’m giving leadership to the rest of the racing industry by becoming the first racecourse in this country to become carbon-neutral.”