Wind farm schemes in and near Northumberland National Park are set to generate more debate as plans emerge for another “green” energy scheme.
Yesterday – as some locals welcomed the prospect of up to 100 turbines in Kielder Forest – proposals were revealed for the biggest turbines in the park itself so far. Farmer James Ions has submitted an application to the National Park Authority for two 74m (243ft) turbines at High Thorneyburn, Falstone. They would be more than four times higher than the tallest turbine built in the protected landscape of the park. Concerns have been voiced that approval could “open the floodgates” for more large turbines in the park.
The latest controversy emerged after it was revealed RWE npower renewables wants consent for four test masts in Kielder Forest – which could pave the way for an application to develop a wind farm of 50 to 100 turbines.
Yesterday members of Rochester with Byrness Parish Council, who were briefed on the RWE plans last week, welcomed the financial benefits such a huge wind farm would bring.
A community fund would generate hundreds of thousands of pounds for local projects over the wind farm’s life.
Parish vice-chairman, Ian Scott, said: ”The reaction from us is quite favourable. There would be a considerable pot of money which would come to the local communities in the two parishes affected. Nobody threw their hands up and said they didn’t want this, and most are quite happy with it.
“The money could be used for projects such as a new village hall or community centre. Our precept only generates ï¿½5,000 a year, so this extra money would be very welcome.”
Kate Thompson, who runs Byrness Hotel and B&B, said: “Personally I think it would be good for tourism, because not a lot of money seems to come our way from the county council.
“It’s a constant slog to get funding, so anything that generates cash is good to have, because there are lots of things people would like to do.
“I would rather live next to a wind farm than Sizewell B, and personally I think turbines are quite elegant.”
Mr Ions’ scheme for High Thorneyburn is being assessed by park planning officials, to see if an environmental impact statement is required. So far, the tallest turbines allowed in the park have been 17.75m and the highest one refused permission was 33.5m. One park resident said: “I am very concerned that if this application goes ahead and is accepted, it will have grave implications for the status of the National Park.
“It could open up the floodgates for a rash of similar, inappropriate applications in areas which I always believed were sacrosanct.”
Park authority head of planning Tammy Adams said: “If this application proceeds, these would be the tallest turbines we have been asked to consider within the National Park.”
She said: “The park authority does not have a specific policy on wind turbines.
“We don’t have exclusion areas, nor do we have rules on the maximum height.
“We treat each individual proposal on its own merits, using our policies on matters such as tranquillity, cultural heritage, landscape and biodiversity to assess likely impacts on the special qualities of the National Park.”
Mr Ions could not be contacted.