THE TOFT HILL PLANNING APPLICATION HAS BEEN SUBMITTED AND REGISTERED. WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS ON THE APPLICATION SHOULD BE SUBMITTED NOW. SEE THE OBJECTION PAGE FOR FURTHER DETAILS.
This rushed application by NPower before they had monitored the wind resource (an application for an anemometer mast has only just been submitted [March 2007]) or finalised work on their Environmental Statement reflects their desperation to stake a claim to a piece of the action as Ove Arup began a study commissioned by the North East Assembly and the Borough to further refine the carrying capacity for wind farm development of the so-called 'W' area, or 'area of least constraint' "south and west of Berwick". This was originally identified by the landscape appraisal and GIS studies carried out in 2002-3 which informed the Regional Spatial Strategy.
The RSS identified a maximum carrying capacity for this whole area of 25 turbines and emphasised the possible scope for 'small to medium' development; both of these aspects have been repeatedly misrepresented by NPower and Your Energy Ltd.
This study is also covering the Alnwick area and examining the cumulative effects of proposals in the wider area. The study is now completed and will be released in April, 2007.
MAG will be formally submitting a response to the Toft Hill application when we have carefully considered NPower's Environmental Statement and our position in relation to the application, other respondents and the local community.
Meanwhile, please be sure to submit your personal response as soon as possible. Details are available on the Toft Hill - Objection page. Every letter counts!
(The planning documents are available for inspection at the Planning Unit, Council Offices, Wallace Green in Berwick, between 9.00 am and 4.30 pm, Monday to Friday).
NPower Renewables are proposing to build seven 367 ft (112 metre) turbines on the Toft Hill site, a small area of land on a large estate owned by an absentee landlord who lives in Dorset. The site is less than half the acreage of the 'Moorsyde' site and is bounded by settlements at Shellacres, Grindon Rigg, Grindon and by the A698. It is very close to the scheduled ancient monument of Duddo Five Stones.
The Toft Hill site is less than 2 miles (3 km) from the 'Moorsyde' site:
© Crown copyright 2005.
Reproduced from OS 1:25000 mapping (Licence No. 100044197).
1 grid square = 1 square kilometre. Green oval marks Duddo Five Stones, scheduled ancient monument.
In terms of separation distance, visual and other impacts, Toft Hill amounts to an extension of the 'Moorsyde' site.
While NPower have adopted a different approach to Your Energy Limited, by following planning guidelines on consultation before finalising their proposal, their array of 362 ft. turbines would have the same adverse visual impacts on our landscape and the same damaging effects on local communities and the local economy.
NPower, like other developers in the area, are studiously ignoring adjacent applications and have stated to us that their focus is purely on maximising the number of turbines they might get away with on this site. They have also submitted their planning application before applying for permission to erect an anemometer mast to measure the wind resource. It used to be thought politic to monitor the wind resource before a planning application was submitted. The company seem to have been in a huge hurry to get an application in. This might not be unconnected with the Wind Capacity Study by Ove Arup for the North East Assembly (the strategic planning authority) and Berwick Borough which is due to be released in early April.
It also seems that wind developers are rushing to get as many applications as possible approved before the gravy train is derailed by Government action to reduce the Renewables Obligation (RO) subsidy for onshore wind.
Following on from the Energy Review, Government has been consulting on the introduction of a banded RO scheme which would offer a higher reward to higher value technologies and which would downrate onshore wind. The Government admits that, "As a technology-neutral instrument, the Renewables Obligation has thus far proved less successful in bringing forward development of the more emerging renewable technologies." In other words it has resulted in the present Klondike windrush because onshore wind is the cheapest and easiest technology to develop, even though it is of lowest value both in terms of carbon saving and security of supply. Ofgem calculates that since the obligation was introduced in 2002 customers have been overcharged by £740m and that saving one tonne of carbon through the RO costs up to eight times as much as under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. The National Audit Office reported that onshore wind developers were being paid at least twice what was needed to develop onshore sites in 2005 (the rate of return has actually increased since then). This excess is paid for in electricity bills.
In order not to upset the industry, the Government intends maintaining the present regime for schemes which are in production by 2009. This high level of subsidy will probably be reduced for schemes that are not in production by 2009, when a banded RO subsidy system is likely to be introduced. The present subsidy is so generous that (as Your Energy openly admit) wind resource is a secondary matter. 1
NPower admit in the small print of their 'Wind Power News' flier for Toft Hill that they are working on a capacity factor of only 21% for the site. This is in line with the very poor capacity factor of just over 22% that Your Energy have claimed for 'Moorsyde'. To put this in context, the British Wind Energy Association claims a 'typical' capacity factor of 30%. The DTI has published recorded figures for 1998-2004 which showed that the North East has the lowest capacity factor in the country, at 21%.
The Toft Hill scheme would totally dominate Duddo Five Stones, a scheduled ancient monument of national importance which has been described as, "... undoubtedly the most complete and dramatically situated" [of Northumbrian stone circles]. 2 Duddo Tower (SAM & Grade II listing) would also be adversely affected.
A power station development such as this, while making a negligible contribution to secure power production and even less to carbon saving, would have a major impact on views to the Cheviots from the A698 which is the major tourist route between Berwick and Coldstream. It would also have major visual impacts on the Tweed valley and the National Park.
There is also a problem with the proximity of this turbine array to settlements. Whereas NPower's previous proposal for 12 turbines on this site would have resulted in numbers of houses being well within the industry's so-called 'accepted, working, separation distance' of 750m, the revised proposal still places turbines within 1.5 km of housing - the Scottish Executive (SPPG 6) is presently discussing the imposition of a 1.5 km separation distance for large schemes (20MW plus).3 The DTI has yet to modernise a 450m separation distance guideline from the mid 1990's when turbines were less than half the size of current models.
The UK Noise Association has also recently published report which suggests that wind power stations should not be built within 1 mile of dwellings.4 A DTI working party is currently examining the problems with wind farm noise and hopes to formulate a more effective system for rating and assessing noise than the flawed ETSU-R-97 guidelines which were originally designed more for the convenience of the industry than to protect householders.
In a statement which reveals an arrogant assumption that this is a done deal - totally undermining the PR value of their 'consultation' exercise - Clare Wilson, NPower Renewables' development manager for the North, has said in a Journal interview (4 April, 2005):
"These and other proposed sites have been through a consultation process at regional level, and these locations are considered suitable for development. [...] That does not mean we can just come along and put up whatever we like. We have to prove that what we are proposing is appropriate for that particular site, but what it does say is that a windfarm of some varying degree will eventually be built there. That's unless we are presented with a show-stopper, and at this moment in time there doesn't seem to be one."
This repeats the same distortion of the planning guidelines that Your Energy have been guilty of. NPower repeat this misleading interpretation on their website:
"The area has been identified within the emerging Regional Spatial Strategy of the North East Assembly as appropriate for a medium-sized wind farm. Northumberland County Council have endorsed the area as having the potential for medium-scale wind development in their recently adopted Structure Plan (February 2005)."
NPower Renewables - Toft Hill page
The Examination in Public of the Regional Spatial Strategy, to which MAG was invited to contribute, has now reported and confirms the correct interpretation of the RSS with regard to wind power development, especially with regard to policy 42. The RSS has been repeatedly misrepresented by NPower, Your Energy and other wind power developers.
The EIP Panel Report states:
'Small to medium scale development
8.40 The Panel considered whether there was a need for greater clarity in Policy 42 and supporting text concerning the use of the term `medium scale wind energy development’. Policy 42 b) confirms that the areas identified in the Policy have ‘potential for medium scale development’. It emerged from the debate at the EiP that the interpretation that should be put upon the potential of these areas is that they are suitable for small to medium scale wind energy development, [our emphasis] and that this description was intended to distinguish these areas from the potential for large scale wind energy development in the Kielder Forest. It was pointed out that some renewable energy companies believed that this policy implied that the designated areas could accommodate a number of ‘medium scale’ developments. It was established from the NEA in reply that the definition of medium scale set out in paragraph 3.141 (20 - 25 turbines) and carried forward into Policy 42 related to the total capacity of an area and should not be regarded as an appropriate scale for individual proposals. [our emphasis] It was also confirmed that work is on-going using landscape capacity techniques to better inform the carrying capacity of the designated areas. We note that this work will be of particular assistance in making judgements on cumulative impact.'(EIP, Panel Report, 4 August 2006.)
The EiP Panel report is available as a PDF download from the NE assembly Website.
Clare Wilson sounded off again in response to criticisms of the visual impact of NPower's massive Middlemoor development near North Charlton, comparing it with a similar development on the edge of the Lake District National Park. We quote from the Journal article:
[...] local farmer Robert Thorp, said: "It will be the first thing that tourists heading along the A1 north of Alnwick will see.
"This area relies heavily on the appeal of its unspoiled countryside to sustain its tourist economy. Why the developer is planning to put a windfarm of this size here beggars belief, and I would like to see a full public inquiry like that being staged in Cumbria." However, Clare Wilson, npower renewables' development manager for the North, which is behind the Middlemoor scheme, said Whinash was a "very different" proposal to their own. "Whinash is a very sensitive site, on land which is currently adjacent to, and could eventually become part of the National Park," she said. "You can't draw any similarities to Middlemoor other than the scale."
Which raises the issue of Toft Hill and its landscape sensitivity. Seven 367 ft. (112 metre) turbines on this plateau, ignoring, for the moment, the 10 turbines proposed for the immediately adjacent 'Moorsyde' scheme and the 9 turbines proposed at Barmoor 5 km to the south east (both of which are already in the planning process), would dominate views to the adjacent National Park, the skyline of the Heritage Coast (a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and views along the Tweed,
a Site of Special Scientific Interest since 1976 and now adopted as Special Area of Conservation. This is before we even begin to examine the immediate proximity of the Duddo Stone Circle, a Scheduled Ancient Monument of national importance. The cumulative impact, if we add in any or all of the other proposals in the area is directly comparable to Whinash's 27 turbines which caused such a storm of protest nationally.
It is not possible to separate out this small plateau area from the surrounding landscape: with the National Park, the Heritage Coast and the Tweed Valley it is an integral part of a landscape which is the major capital asset of our tourist economy; an asset which power station developers care so little about compromising.
It is interesting that NPower make much of their offshore development pedigree (although they are involved in 23 onshore wind power stations to their 2 offshore, to date), selling their 'Juice' Scheme on the back of their North Hoyle development which is 4-5 miles off the coast of North Wales. Note that those turbines are smaller than those they want to inflict on this sensitive landscape. As NPower states:
"The UK has a huge offshore wind resource which is currently virtually untapped. Offshore sites have the potential to accommodate large numbers of the most powerful wind turbines [...]"
'NPower Juice' brochure.
We would agree. So why are they seeking to build an array of massive turbines on this wholly inappropriate site which has one of the worst wind capacity factor figures in the country?
I think we all know the answer: the massive, subsidised profits that are to be made from such developments.
In a judgement on 21 February 2007, a complaint regarding a circular entitled "Wind Power News" about NPower's Nun Wood Wind Farm project was upheld on 7 out of 8 points by the Advertising Standards Authority.
(See full adjudication)
'An energy company has told families facing record heating bills to send their children to bed clutching “microwaveable rice cloth bags”.
Npower has published advice telling parents that they could keep their children “snug as a bug” by “getting them to wear socks and a hat in bed during the coldest nights, and taking a hot water bottle or microwaveable rice cloth bag to bed”.
It also suggests that children could be kept warm by tucking them into a sleeping bag.
The company, which has raised its prices for domestic customers three times this year, said that it wanted to help vulnerable families with young children to save on their bills.
The consumer watchdog Energywatch said it was glad that Npower had made the connection between cold homes and poor health, but added that it was not as impressed that it had not made the link between higher energy prices and cold homes.
Robert Whelan, of Civitas, an independent think-tank, said: “We don’t expect Sainsbury’s to tell us how to put children to bed hungry so I don’t know why an energy company is suggesting that we put children to bed with hats on.”
Sarah Miller, of Citizens Advice, said: “There should be better and more permanent ways of addressing the issue of spiralling energy prices.”
A spokesman for Npower said the advice was meant to be helpful.'
(David Sanderson, The Times, 7 November 2006).
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