Anti wind-farm protestors have called on planners to protect the North East countryside from a spread of “farm turbines”.
Officers at Northumberland County Council have come under fire from an anti-wind campaigner who claims they are recommending approval of 97% of planning applications for small turbines on farms, usually despite strong local opposition.
The authority insists it does consider impacts on the environment when preparing recommendations, but that it must also heed national requirements to consider the benefits of renewable energy.
And farming groups say income from turbines can be of real benefit to farms in the county at a time when many are struggling.
Don Brownlow, a parish councillor at Duddo who runs the anti-wind website Windbyte, spoke out after planners recently recommended approval of two 34.5m engines on farmland near the 4,000 year old Duddo stone circle, despite objections from local residents and the parish council over their impact on the ancient site.
Coun Brownlow has presented data he has been collecting to The Journal which he says shows that county planning officers had recommended approval of 97% of farm turbines over 30m between the authority being formed and the end of September.
Officials have only recommended refusal of two single turbines over 30m in that time, owing to their impact on listed buildings or scheduled ancient monuments.
Coun Brownlow’s research suggests councillors in Northumberland vote against their officer advice in 33% of cases involving turbines over 30m, usually refusing where they have been urged to approve, compared to 3% in County Durham and 4% in the Scottish Borders.
Coun Brownlow said of his figures: “It is time that members of Northumberland County Council asked some questions about what is going on in their planning department.”
Last night, Karen Ledger, head of development services at the council, said: “When considering applications for turbines we give very careful consideration to the potential impact on the environment of Northumberland, as well as on the lives of local residents.
“In line with national requirements we also have to give due consideration to the benefits of renewable energy generation.”
The National Farmers’ Union last night said a desire to be cost efficient and to diversify was behind a growing number of farmers seeking to put up turbines on their land.
County adviser Richard Potts said: “There are definitely more going up, there is a lot of interest there.”
Yet the union official did not believe Northumberland has more farm turbines than elsewhere in the region.