Picture perfect to encourage comments, insists council

The facebook page on the Northumberland County Council page.
The facebook page on the Northumberland County Council page.
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A PHOTOGRAPH used in the hope of sparking debate about wind power has come in for criticism from one councillor.

Officials at Northumberland County Council have put a photograph of a wind farm on the social networking site Facebook to illustrate a post asking if more wind farms should be allowed in the county.

The post also asks for comments on the council’s core strategy.

However, at last week’s full council meeting, Cramlington North councillor Wayne Daley voiced concern about the use of the image.

Coun Daley said: “I am very concerned that what is meant to be an open and honest dialogue with the public about serious matters around planning is being promoted by a large photo of wind turbines.

“It could appear to the public like this consultation period is a waste of time given the obvious message this photograph might send to those concerned about how the county council plans to look at renewable energy in the future.

“The council needs to think carefully about how they promote public consultations, especially given the many issues around wind farms in Northumberland.

“I think it could be seen as predetermination on the issue.

“You are trying to wind up the community, but I don’t think putting contentious things like that on the website is a legitimate way of engaging the public and making the point that this council will look at applications fairly. I think it is very irresponsible.”

The authority’s executive member for regeneration, Tom Brechany, of Cramlington South East, defended the use of the photo, saying: “We have been using social media as a way of discussing a number of topics.

“We are using provocative questions to get results, and as part of this, we asked for views on wind farms.

“This does not indicate any preference for or against. It was just used to make it stand out.

“Not all members of the public find wind farms contentious.

“Northumberland suffers being favourable for wind farms, but every wind farm application that comes before this council is decided by the national guidance and policy framework.”

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