A SCHOOL with regional science learning centre of excellence status has been given added wind to its sails.

Planning approval has been granted for a wind charger, or turbine, to be erected in the grounds of Framwellgate School, in Framwellgate Moor, Durham.

It will take the form of a slender, 11-metre high column on which will be mounted three 1.5-metre blades.

The turbine will be two metres down a slope from new pedestrian and vehicle access gates to the site, from Front Street, and an estimated 90 metres north of the nearest residential properties, in Mere Drive.

It will be white, with the blades bearing the words "Turning", "Toward" and "Living".

Although mainly an educational tool, the 2.5-kilowatt charger will be capable of generating a small amount of electricity for use in the neighbouring Science Learning Centre North-East and to power an electric car.

The centre is almost complete and should go into operation in coming weeks, with a VIP guest expected to perform the official opening later in the school term.

Monitors in the centre will record how much electricity is generated by the turbine.

Three letters of objection were lodged against the proposed turbine, with concerns expressed over proximity to residential properties, noise and visual intrusion.

The opponents also said that the turbine was unnecessary and would distract drivers. It might also, possibly, affect television reception.

But David Miller, Durham County Council's acting director of environment, offered assurance over many of the concerns, stating that it would be very slender and barely taller than a lighting column.

It would also be blocked out on the sight line of many nearby homes by trees. In addition, he said, because of its design it would emit little noise.

The council's planning committee granted approval for the mounting of the column.

Head teacher Joan Sjovoll said it would not be a major blot on the landscape.

"It is not one of the giant turbines you see in the sea off Blyth or anything like that.

"It is almost at the edge of our car park, and it is there to demonstrate to the students about wind power generation, but it will produce a little bit of power."

Mrs Sjovoll said the turbine project is in keeping with other sustainable features of the new science centre, including solar panels.