An increasing number of visitors to Northumberland say they are less likely to return if more wind turbines are built in the county.
The Middleton Burn Action Group, fighting planned wind farms near Belford, conducted a survey for the second year in a row asking tourists whether those proposed turbines would impact on their likelihood of returning.
Whereas last year 64% of respondents said turbines would adversely effect their choice of North Northumberland as a holiday destination, that figure increased to 76.9% in 2013.
The action group has put the rise down to the fact that visitors “have been able to see for themselves the devastation allowed to be wrought on this beautiful area” following the erection of a number of turbines in the county over the past year.
However, a developer of one county wind farm has insisted turbines soon can become visitor attractions.
The group carried out its first survey in August and September last year asking visitors to Belford to assess the possible effect on tourism of 25 proposed wind turbines at Middleton Burn and Belford Burn. 64% said they would visit the area less often and the same percentage said they would recommend the area less often.
67% said they would stay in the area less time while 85% believed turbines would make North Northumberland “very spoilt.”
Since then, 28 engines have been erected at Middlemoor and Wandylaw.
The group decided to conduct the survey again over the same months, and the percentage of respondents who said they would visit less often rose to 76.9%, an increase of over 12%.
The same percentage said they would recommend the area less often, while the same again said they would stay in the area less time. 89.7% said the turbines would make North Northumberland very spoilt. One respondent wrote: “We visit North Northumberland because it is so unspoilt. Turbines would destroy the remote timeless quality.”
A group spokesman said: “Almost the same number of visitors responded as in the 2012 survey but this year saw a dramatic increase in those stating it would adversely effect their choice of North Northumberland as their holiday destination.
“This large upsurge of feeling has been caused, we believe, by what has come to be known locally as the “Middlemoor Effect”, the fact that our visitors have been able to see for themselves the devastation allowed to be wrought on this beautiful area.
“When considering tourism in their scoping reports and planning applications, developers merely rely on very old figures and surveys that show little harm would be done.
“Since those reports, turbines have almost doubled in size and are now being placed in very sensitive areas.”
A spokeswoman for npower renewables, the company behind the turbines at Middlemoor, said: “With 28 operational onshore wind farms across the UK our experience suggests that wind turbines quickly become part of the local landscape.
“Some wind farms, such as Whitelee in Scotland, the UK’s largest onshore wind farm, have actually become tourist and visitor attractions within their local areas.
“We are committed to working with communities that host wind farms.
“We establish a community investment fund for each wind farm once it becomes operational and our community investment programmes support the long term development of the communities in which we operate.
“The Middlemoor wind farm community fund will be open to receive applications later this year.”