A test mast which could pave the way for yet another wind farm development in the Northumberland countryside has been given the green light.
The planning inspector’s ruling has overturned a decision by county councillors to refuse permission for the 50m meteorological mast at Charity Hall near Sharperton, in the Upper Coquet Valley.
It comes as wind farm developments continue to cause controversy at locations across Northumberland – with a public inquiry into one scheme starting this week and councillors set to hold a site visit on another.
Last December council planning committee members rejected the proposed test mast at Sharperton – against the advice of their officers – after application was opposed by three local parish councils, the Northumberland National Park Authority and six residents. The site is about 3km from the eastern boundary of the national park and just over 2km east of the hamlet of Sharperton.
Objectors claimed a wind farm there would have devastating effects on the tranquil rural valley and the national park, and concerns were also raised about a potential risk to low-flying aircraft and visual intrusion in an area of high landscape value.
Empirica Investments lodged an appeal against the decision, which has now been overturned by a planning inspector.
The inspector ruled that the temporary mast would not have a detrimental impact on the distinctive landscape character of the area and would not conflict with planning policies.
He said it was required to assess the technical suitability of the Sharperton area for wind turbine development and felt it would not have any detrimental impact on the national park given its distance from the boundary.
Meanwhile, a six-day public inquiry starts tomorrow into plans for a wind farm close to a Northumberland hamlet. Developer Energiekontor UK is appealing against the county council’s refusal of its application for five turbines, each 126m tall, at Fenrother, north of Morpeth.
The scheme sparked more than 1,600 letters of objection and the inquiry is seen as a test of recent claims that residents will be given a bigger say on wind farms proposed near their communities.
Yesterday Dr James Lunn, who leads the Fenrother action group, said: “We see this inquiry as a wonderful opportunity for common sense to prevail and we hope it spells the end of what has been the worst two and a half years of our lives.
“I think we know in our hearts that there is no reason why this wind farm should go ahead.”
The site is about 3km from the eastern boundary of the national park