A STORM has whipped up over an election candidate’s plans for wind turbines on Northumberland farmland – while he refuses to back a similar scheme in the constituency he hopes to represent.
Neil Carmichael, who is standing for the Conservatives in Stroud, Gloucestershire, is involved with RWE Npower on proposals to put four 125m-high turbines on land he owns at Bavington Hill Head Farm near Kirkharle.
But his stance on renewable energy has been criticised by local action group Credit (Campaign for Responsible Energy Development In Tynedale) which has been fighting a series of wind farm projects in the area.
Credit claims Mr Carmichael is happy for turbines to go up on his North East land despite local opposition, while making seemingly contradictory comments in his role as a parliamentary candidate in Gloucestershire.
Mr Carmichael, 49, a former Northumberland county councillor, farmed Bavington Hill Head for 10 years before moving south in 1999.
However, as a Tory candidate in Stroud he once described a single turbine proposed at Lympsfield as a “monstrosity”, and recently pledged to work to protect Gloucestershire’s rural landscapes from “excessive” developments.
Now he is refusing to give his support to controversial proposals by energy firm Ecotricity which could lead to eight 120m-high turbines being built at Berkeley Vale, Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire, and which are strongly opposed by local residents there.
Last month the Government approved two wind farms – with a total of 38 turbines – at Green Rigg Fell and Ray Estate, in the same area as the proposed Npower site at Bavington. A third, for 21 turbines at nearby Steadings, was rejected.
The three schemes were all opposed by Credit, which is also against the plan to erect turbines on Mr Carmichael’s land. Yesterday Credit secretary, Karen Archbold, said Mr Carmichael’s attitude to the proposed wind farms at Bavington and Berkeley Vale smacked of hypocrisy.
“Why does he think that what’s good enough for Gloucestershire doesn’t apply in Northumberland? After all, he’s not going to have to live with the disturbance from the turbines here because he’s 300 miles away.
“We have already had one wind farm turned down here by the Government, partly because of cumulative impact, so why does he think Bavington Hill Head will be any more successful? Even knowing that other proposals were in the pipeline, he got into bed with Npower.
“He may say he doesn’t object to wind farms in the right places, but he described a single turbine down in Gloucestershire as a monstrosity. What makes him say that and yet claim that multiple, 125m turbines in Northumberland are perfectly acceptable?”
Yesterday Mr Carmichael rejected claims he is being “inconsistent” and said his previous comments about one turbine being a monstrosity was because it was proposed close to a gliding club.
He said he was happy for wind turbines to be built on his land at Bavington Hill Head if planning allowed it, but he was “not obsessed” about it. “I believe wind farms should be allowed where they are appropriate and where it is possible. It is a question of whether planning permits it,” he said.
“What I believe strongly is they should not be in areas of outstanding natural beauty, and, as far as I know, that is not the case at Bavington Hill Head. My worry about the proposals here at Berkeley Vale is that the site borders a local area of outstanding beauty.
“I am aware of the strength of local opinion against it and I am in touch with the Berkeley Vale pressure group. I would say that particular scheme will have some trouble because of its proximity to the AONB. I am raising concerns but not actually campaigning against it.
“I believe that is a reasonable position to take. I believe in renewable energy and there is no inconsistency here at all.”
Mr Carmichael said he thought RWE Npower would be “considering their options” concerning Bavington Hill Head in the light of the recent public inquiry decision regarding sites at Green Rigg, Ray Estate and Steadings, in Northumberland.
Ministers gave the go-ahead to a proposal for 18 turbines at Green Rigg and 20 at Ray Estate. But they threw out a bid for 21 turbines at Steadings.