Controversial mast plan thrown out

VICTORY ... Labour's Coun Alan Smith, left, and Independent Coun Steve Harrison opposed the green belt bid.
VICTORY ... Labour's Coun Alan Smith, left, and Independent Coun Steve Harrison opposed the green belt bid.

GREEN belt campaigners are celebrating after plans for a 50-metre meteorological mast on land in South Tyneside were rejected.

The scheme, close to Laverick Hall Farm in Laverick Lane, West Boldon, was put forward by Empirica Investments Ltd, a North Yorkshire firm specialising in renewable energy projects, including wind turbines.

But at a meeting of the council’s planning committee yesterday, the application was refused.

Members expressed concerns that the mast could trigger a bid for a wind turbine farm development on the site at a later date.

Green belt campaigner Ron Smith, 83, of Durham Drive, was among 150 people to sign a petition against the siting of the mast.

He said: “As a resident, I am very pleased that the committee has taken this decision.

“We bought our homes here because this was green belt land and we want it to stay that way.”

People in the Fellgate and Hedworth ward staged a successful fight against a controversial business park scheme on the same green belt six years ago.

And former South Tyneside Council Labour leader Paul Waggott was voted out after not siding with residents in a protest against the business park and leisure development on a 240-acre site.

The plans were later thrown out by a Government inspector and in May 2008, Coun Iain Malcolm, then newly-elected Labour council leader, pledged no developments would be allowed on green belt bordering the Fellgate estate.

But the latest mast bid united Labour and independent representatives in Fellgate and Hedworth – all three of whom opposed it.

At yesterday’s meeting, Labour’s Coun Alan Smith said he believed the intention was to establish a wind turbine farm on the site.

He said: “What is the point on giving this the go-ahead when a wind turbine will be turned down?

“My argument is that it had to be established that there were ‘very special circumstances’ for this to be approved, and these are not.”

Independent Coun Steve Harrison added: “This was yet another attack on green belt after the fight against the business park.

“This was just an application to gather information for a wind farm, and very few people want to live next to a wind turbine.

“Where they have been placed in other parts of the country, peaceful lives have been shattered and the price of homes devalued.

“I’d reiterate what the council leader said, that nothing would be built on that land as long as this administration was in place.”

Labour’s Bill Brady, who represents Whiteleas, added: “There was only one reason for this application and that was to find out if it was viable for a wind farm.”

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