MoD deal 'could see East Yorkshire inundated with wind turbines'
CAMPAIGNERS fear a new deal with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) could see the East Riding "inundated" with wind turbines.
The MoD objects to dozens of turbine applications every year because they interfere with the radar at RAF Staxton Wold.
But energy company EON is paying millions of pounds for a new system it hopes will not be affected.
This will remove a barrier to its huge Humber Gateway wind farm off the East Yorkshire coast.
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But campaigners fear it could also allow onshore turbines to spring up all over the Wolds.
Steve Hey, chairman of the No To Wolds Wind Farm Group, said: "It would be a major concern if the MoD no longer objected to turbines.
"It would open the floodgates and the Yorkshire Wolds would be inundated with turbines. Its beauty would be lost forever.
"This is being paid for by offshore industry and onshore developers are riding on their shirt-tails."
The Staxton Wold system is being upgraded from a Lockheed Martin T-101 radar to a TPS-77 produced by the same company.
Although this upgrade is being fully funded by wind farm developers, the public paid £8 million for a new radar at the site in October 2009.
Tim Fenton worked as a public relations officer for the military until 2009 and is now a member of Mr Hey's group.
He said: "Staxton Wold used to have a T-93 radar and it was upgraded to a T-101.
"It cost millions of pounds from the MoD's budget, which is taxpayers' money.
"It's a waste if you spend millions of pounds and only get a few years' use out of it."
When it considers turbine applications, East Riding Council takes MoD objections very seriously.
At a meeting last week, it objected to seven wind turbine sites across East Yorkshire.
All seven applications were then rejected by the council.
Planning committee chairman Councillor Phyllis Pollard said: "While there are interests of national security we cannot ignore them.
"We can't put the safety of residents at risk.
"We were as frustrated as everybody else and we're very sympathetic with the applicants but our hands were tied looking after the safety of our residents."
Two of the largest onshore wind farms facing MoD objections are at Thornholme Field and Fraisthorpe.
At Thornholme, near Burton Agnes, developer Wind Prospect hopes to install six 110 metre-high turbines.
And at Fraisthorpe, TCI Renewables wants to build nine 130 metre-high turbines overlooking Bridlington bay.
A spokesman for Wind Prospect said: "We welcome the work being carried out regarding offshore wind development and the Staxton Wold radar.
"It will be interesting to see whether the results translate to onshore wind development.
"Radar issues are just one of a long line of factors that wind farm developers need to examine as part of a planning application."
Testing for the new radar at Staxton Wold, near Bridlington, will begin in July next year and it should be fully installed in September the same year.
Mr Fenton said turbines pose a problem for the site's existing radar because of the speed of their blades.
"The tops of the blades move so fast they can look like a small plane," he said. "So you get a lot of clutter on the radar and it can be hard to work out what is a plane.
"This TPS-77 allows them to filter out turbine blades."
EON is paying Serco Group, an international service company, to provide the radar.
Serco has a £27 million contract to supply two TPS-77s – one at Staxton Wold and one at Brizlee Wood in Northumberland, paid for by other energy companies.
Although the radar has not yet been tested in East Yorkshire, a TPS-77 installed last year at Trimingham on the Norfolk coast has proven effective.
Serco Group chief executive Christopher Hyman said: "Serco's innovative approach is enabling the delivery of a key programme to the Ministry of Defence while helping address one of the challenges of developing wind farms in the UK.
"We are delighted that we are able to meet the needs of our customer in the Ministry of Defence while fully supporting the wider Government agenda for a low-carbon economy and greater energy security."
A spokeswoman for EON declined to comment.