By Martin Walker
An MP who has campaigned against a proposed 24-turbine wind farm has applauded a decision to reject a bid to build two temporary masts.
E.ON had hoped the 80-metre wind-testing masts would determine whether the site, near Newton Aycliffe, is suitable for The Isles – a controversial wind farm proposal currently under public consultation.
Eighty metres tall, the anemometer posts would have been in place for up to two years on land either side of the A1 – one located in farmland between Bradbury and Little Isle Farm, the other near Preston-le-Skerne.
But councillors refused E.ON’s application, with members airing concerns about the impact on local landscape and the conflict with the policies of the Sedgefield Borough local plan.
Phil Wilson, the Labour MP for Sedgefield, has been campaigning against E.ON’s 24-turbine Isles bid along with The Isles Community Turbine Action Campaign (Tictac).
Mr Wilson said: “The fact Durham County Councillors have made their thoughts on this is quite significant, and demonstrates the depth of feeling that exists about E.ON’s bid on the whole.
“I’m not against wind farms completely, but we’ve more than played our part. E.ON’s wind farm proposal is too large and for the wrong place – Durham is full to capacity as far as wind farms are concerned.”
Councillor Mike Dixon highlighted how the second phase of consultation for The Isles was drawing to a close, adding: “What is the point – that is what I want to know?
“Surely for them to get this far through the process they must know the site is suitable for a wind farm. It seems to me this application is coming at the wrong time.”
Coun George Richardson, meanwhile, said putting temporary masts in a sensitive landscape would be “sacrilegious.”
Susan Fox, of campaign group The Isles Community Turbine Action Campaign (Tictac), spoke against the application during the meeting at County Hall.
She said E.ONs application had been flawed, with gaps in the design and access statement making it hard for the public to visualize the masts. Mrs Fox also questioned why importance had been attached to the temporary nature of the masts, which would be in place for up to two years.
“A prominent industrial structure is unacceptable in this location regardless of how long it is there,” she said. “If it is unsuitable in an environment it is unsuitable. If there was an application for a 80m mast on Palace Green in front of Durham Cathedral for two years or even two weeks of course it would be turned down.”
However, planning officer Allan Simpson said planners had adequate information. He described the masts as slim and lightweight and said the impact on the landscape would be minimal.
Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Fox said she was “surprised and delighted” at the outcome.