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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

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Windfarm firm's tactics slammed by Cumbria councillor

Community leaders have hit out at the tactics being used by an energy company hoping to build a windfarm.

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Val Tarbitt: ‘Moving forward in a very exciting way’

County councillor Val Tarbitt claimed EDF Energy Renewables was going for the hard sell over the proposals for Beck Burn Peat Works outside Longtown with promises of community benefits.

Her comments came at a meeting of Arthuret parish council in Longtown.

EDF Energy Renewables has plans to erect nine turbines at Beck Burn. Each of these turbines would be 126 metres (413ft) high, more than three times the height of Carlisle’s Civic Centre.

As part of its proposal, EDF has committed to making £90,000 available as a community fund for the life of the windfarm. It has also discussed a business rate freeze and using local contractors for the work. The energy firm first applied to Carlisle City Council for permission to build the windfarm in 2010.

However, the authority rejected the application the following year.

Members said the main reason for this was an objection from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that “seismic noise” would affect equipment at its base at Eskdalemuir. This site is designed to monitor reading from nuclear tests.

Councillors also rejected a proposals from REG Windpower, a company based in Cornwall that applied to build a six-turbine windfarm at Hallburn Farm, for the same reason. This also happened in 2011.

Both companies though argued that their proposed developments could be built without affecting the site’s equipment and appealed these decisions. The issues went to a public inquiry carried out by the Planning Inspectorate. Officials recommended last year that the windfarms should be given the go-ahead but Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, rejected them.

He also referred to objections from the MoD about the effect the windfarms could have on the site.

However, both firms have now resubmitted their plans to the city council.

The parish council has always opposed the plans.

At the meeting, Mrs Tarbitt, who represents Longtown and Rockcliffe on Cumbria County Council, spoke about the proposals for Beck Burn.

She said: “They are doing the hard sell.”

Mrs Tarbitt added that she had had a meeting with EDF to discuss the plans and how a community fund could be used. She said: “Gretna would have to be involved as well, it would be a loaded dice really.”

Mrs Tarbitt also added that she would back the views of the community when it came to the proposal.

Sir James Graham, the parish council’s chairman, said: “I think we have made our position absolutely clear.”

However, a spokesman for EDF told The Cumberland News the company stood by its behaviour.

He said: “EDF Energy Renewables takes a long-term approach to the windfarms it develops. We see ourselves as part of the communities in which we operate, and our aim is to support those communities, not just once we build a windfarm but also in future.”

He confirmed that the community fund would be worth £90,000 each year, which would equate to £1.8 million over the lifetime of the windfarm, to be spent on projects in the area.

The spokesman added: “We have asked local councillors for suggestions as to the types of projects to which these funds could be made available and are keen to discuss their recommendations.”

He also repeated comments that there would be a freeze on business rates if the project went ahead and that the firm would use local contractors.

“We believe that Beck Burn is an excellent site for a windfarm – it would be capable of producing enough low carbon electricity to meet the annual needs of approximately 10,000 homes, would help the UK meet its carbon reduction targets and provide real benefits to the local community.”

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