CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a 24-turbine wind farm will be decided by the local authority rather than a Government minister after developers bowed to public pressure.

E.ON’s decision to reduce the potential output of The Isles wind farm near Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, from 63.5 megawatts (mw) to 48mw means the development is no longer above 50mw and a matter of “national importance.”

This means that any planning applications relating to the scheme will now be decided by Durham County Council’s planning committee instead of the Energy Secretary.

The move has been welcomed by residents, anti-wind farm campaigners and Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson who has been lobbying the Government to give local people a greater say in the decision-making process.

It also follows new Government guidelines giving communities the power to stop wind farms being built if the turbines will have a negative impact on the landscape and heritage of the area.

“I am very pleased with E.ON’s decision,” said Mr Wilson.

“It demonstrates the strength of feeling in the area for this application to be determined by the local planning committee.”

Susan Cox, of The Isles Community Turbine Action Campaign (Tictac), described the move as a “small victory.”

“We are absolutely thrilled that it is going to be decided locally,” she said. “It is only right the decision is made by elected representatives of people in County Durham.

“Obviously there are still going to be 24-turbines and we have a lot of work to do but we will certainly be celebrating this weekend.”

An E.ON spokesman said: “We’re aware that there have been concerns in the local community about the project.

“We feel it is important that the community has the opportunity to have their say and by going through as a local application, and by hearing the views of the local community, we believe we will come to an agreed position more quickly.”

E.ON is expected to submit revised plans for The Isles to Durham County Council next spring.

If the application is successful turbines could be built on the site, close to the A1 at Bradbury, in 2017.