Visual Impacts

This is a beautiful part of the country. Its unique selling point has long been identified as its unspoilt countryside, open skies, historical heritage and magnificent coast. We all know why ‘England’s Secret Kingdom’ and ‘The land of far horizons’ have been so successful in marketing Northumberland to tourists. The developers of Middleton Burn and Belford Burn will soon discover why ‘Passionate people, passionate places’ also holds true!

Tourism is the main employer in this area and this proposal would impact on tourist businesses and investment. In other areas of Northumberland wind farm speculators have caused years of planning blight, stopped investment in tourist businesses and damaged business and property values.

If built, these schemes could cost the area jobs and have a negative impact that would far outweigh the paltry sums that the developers propose paying in so-called ‘community funds’.

St Cuthbert’s Cave

The site of the Middleton Burn proposed wind farm borders St Cuthbert’s Cave and wood, a National Trust site. The cave is reputed to have sheltered the coffin of St Cuthbert after Viking raids forced the monks of Lindisfarne to flee, carrying the body of the saint.

St Cuthbert's Cave
St Cuthbert’s Cave, ©  Don Brownlow Photography.

The site draws families out for a weekend stroll, inquisitive tourists, long-distance walkers and pilgrims from all over the world who are fascinated by Celtic Christianity and the history of the early Christian church in Britain.

The developer’s own predictive noise mapping shows that the turbine noise in this tranquil place of pilgrimage would exceed that allowed by noise guidelines for homes.

St.Cuthbert’s Way

St.Cuthbert’s Way is long distance path from  Melrose to Holy Island. It links sites associated with St Cuthbert and the early Christian church and is very popular with both walkers and pilgrims. From St Cuthbert’s Cave it passes through the northern part of the turbine site, within 250m of turbines. In the Scottish Borders wind farm planning guidance sets a minimum separation distance for turbines of 2,000m from such important long distance paths and from listed buildings and important heritage assets.

Vestas, the Danish manufacturers of the V90 3MW turbine that might be used on this site, state in their safety manual that:

“… the following safety regulations must be observed:
2. Stay and Traffic by the Turbine
Do not stay within a radius of 400m (1300ft) from the turbine unless it is necessary.” (Safety Regulations for Operators and Technicians, V90 – 3.0MW/V100 – 2.75MW, p.3).

As if the insult to one major long-distance path was not enough, this turbine site also impacts on St.Oswald’s Way , a long-distance walking route that links places associated with St. Oswald, the King of Northumbria in the early 7th Century. This passes through the eastern edge of the site, close to turbines. It is joined by the coastal footpath for part of the way. Other bridleways and footpaths border the site and are popular with walkers and riders.

From St.Cuthbert’s Way on the turbine site you can see the small chapel on Inner Farne which marks the spot where St Cuthbert died. Holy Island is perhaps the most important tourist destination in North Northumberland. Sixteen 125m turbines would dominate views from the island and the surrounding area of coast.  There are already 34 massive industrial turbines consented at Middlemoor, Wandylaw and Barmoor which will be very visible from Holy Island,  to the south and north of the Middleton Burn site.

Environmental Impacts

There are major concerns, even evident in the scoping documents produced by Air Farmer’s consultants, that the proposal might have serious adverse impacts on the ecology of the area.

The site borders Holburn Moss and Lake. This is not merely a nature reserve, it is a site of international importance: it is not only a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), but is also designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) and a ‘Ramsar Site’. That is “a wetland of international importance” listed under the Ramsar Convention, which is supposed to confer the highest degree of protection on the site.

“The reserve is an internationally designated wetland linked closely to the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve area due to movement of wildfowl between the two.” (Northumberland Wildlife Trust, website).

Greylag Geese
Greylag Geese, © Laurie Campbell

The Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve is also a Ramsar site.  Not only that, Natural England, which is an arm of government, has designated it as a Beacon site, of which there are only 7 in the whole of the UK. It is recognised as one of the most important bird reserves in Europe and is a place of pilgrimage for birders from all over the UK. It  is only 6km from the turbine site. (see Natural England’s website).

Enormous numbers of geese fly inland from the Lindisfarne reserve area to forage and roost. The turbine site stretches for over 2 miles across potential flyways between Lindisfarne NNR and Holburn. Were this scheme to be consented it might well place the UK in breach of its commitments under the Ramsar convention.

Pinkfooted Geese
Pinkfooted Geese, © Laurie Campbell

Geese are recognised as being particularly vulnerable to collision with turbines because of their tendency to fly in large numbers at dawn and dusk, often – with a raised site in such proximity to the coast – at turbine blade height.  Local people are used to hearing large numbers of geese flying through the site area in the darkness and seeing huge flocks grazing on arable land inland from the Lindisfarne reserve.

The ecological surveys carried out by the developers already confirm the numbers of other rare and protected species which use the site area, these include rare raptors, otters, badgers and bats. All may be adversely affected by turbine arrays.

Finally, even the developers acknowledge the potential for pollution of watercourses by building turbines on this site. This is not a minor matter in view of the protections afforded to Budle Bay.