North says yes to green jobs, but no to onshore turbines

Wind turbines and sheep
Image caption The north has numerous wind farms like this one in Cumbria but some communities say it's time to call a halt

There's been much talk of a green jobs dividend for the North East and Cumbria at the Conservative party conference.

The jobs being created in the offshore wind industry in Tyneside and Teesside were trumpeted early on by Energy minister Charles Hendry.

And he also mentioned the 5,000 jobs which will come to both West Cumbria and Hartlepool when new nuclear power stations are built there.

But some are worried that the region is being asked to make too big a contribution towards the country's energy needs.

Vocal opponent

In particular, there is concern about the number of applications for onshore wind farms.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan has been a vocal opponent of the string of wind farm developers who want to site turbines in Northumberland.

She is also a Conservative, and fought the parliamentary seat of Berwick at the last election.

But she thinks her party has got its policy on renewable energy badly wrong.

She says there should be more focus on other forms of energy such as biomass.

And she says places like Northumberland have had their fill of wind turbines.

She said: "I think it is fair to say that rural Northumberland is fed up to the teeth with developers turning up and wanting to trash our landscape and our tourism industry.

"The subsidy isn't going to help local people, it's going to end up in the pockets of the Danish manufacturer or German investment economy with Northumberland seeing none of the economic benefit."

Planning battles

Some Cumbrian communities will probably empathise with that sentiment too.

There have been plenty of planning battles there between developers and local campaigners.

Also at the conference was George Beveridge, who is both the deputy managing director of the Sellafield nuclear site and the chairman of the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jobs are being lost at Sellafield, but a new nuclear power station next to the site could create 5,000 new posts

He told me that Cumbria was keen to get its share of any new energy investment.

But he wants to see it principally in offshore wind and nuclear power.

He has welcomed the government's commitment to a new nuclear power station next to the Sellafield site he manages.

The reprocessing plant will gradually shed workers over the next few decades as it is now being decommissioned.

Unwelcome wind farms

George Beveridge hopes the jobs provided by the new power station and offshore wind farms will offset that.

But he says more onshore wind farms would be less welcome.

The government believes it needs to find as many ways of creating low carbon energy as possible, so won't call a halt to new onshore wind farms yet.

Ministers have promised to give communities more of a say over where they go, but at the same time their planning reforms will contain a presumption in favour of "sustainable development".

The government also says wind farms need to go to the windiest parts of the country - and that sounds very like Northumberland, Cumbria and County Durham would still very much be under consideration.

There will be keen competition for jobs in the manufacture of new offshore wind turbines, but some northern communities will prefer to opt out of any suggestion they should be prepared to house more turbines near their homes.