Amelia Whittaker and Cameron Brooks
Plans for a controversial windfarm on a Mearns hilltop which have drawn more than 700 responses from locals have been recommended for approval by officials.
Aberdeenshire Council planners say the proposals for St John’s Hill, Chapel of Barras, near Kinneff, meet local and national guidelines.
St John’s Hill Ltd, which is a collaboration between local company FM Developments and the Danish organisation KE Projects, wants to erect nine 260ft turbines, a substation, access tracks, an anemometer mast and ancillary development on the site which overlooks Kinneff village.
The firm originally submitted plans for 10 turbines, each 325ft, on the site in December 2004, but withdrew them last year after a public outcry.
In his report to the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee, head of planning and building standards Douglas Gray, said: “The proposed windfarm site is found to be in broad compliance with national and local policy, subject to compliance with the recommended conditions.
“Local environmental and amenity issues can be satisfactorily addressed at the proposed site and it represents a good opportunity for development as a windfarm, thereby making a contribution to the Scottish Renewables obligation.”
Local people formed the Barras, Arbuthnott, Catterline and Kinneff Windfarm Action Group to try to stop the plans being accepted, complaining about health risks, noise and the windfarm’s visual impact.
Spokesman Edwin Booth said last night that he believed councillors would ignore planning officers’ advice and reject the “overbearing” scheme which promises to produce enough electricity to power 8,800 homes.
He pointed out that councillors ignored planning officials’ advice and rejected a proposed windfarm on the ridge-line of Garvock Hill, near Laurencekirk, 18 months ago.
The Scottish Executive rejected the development company’s appeal in March this year.
The company behind the St John’s Hill windfarm has promised that it will pay an annual sum to the community through a fund managed by locals.
John Forbes, director of St John’s Hill Windfarm Ltd, said yesterday: “We have been working in partnership with various groups over a number of years, including the local community and the council, and we have taken on board their feedback and recommendations and factored them into our overall plans.
“We very much hope that the outcome of next week’s meeting is both positive and conclusive, allowing us to progress with the development at St John’s Hill.”
Officials have received 468 letters of support for the application and 270 against, including a mix of immediately local residents and those from further afield in Montrose, Aberdeen and Banchory.
While some Mearns residents believe that the scheme will benefit the villages of Catterline and Kinneff, others claim it will ruin the landscape in an area which attracts a large number of tourists through its links to famed author Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
Catterline, Kinneff and Dunnottar Community Council has acknowledged this differing opinion within the local community.
Members have said many neighbouring residents are concerned about the scheme’s impact on house prices.
Others, who generally live further away from the site, were found to be in support of renewable energy projects.
But the community group believes that the proposal is unsuitable, and wants Aberdeenshire Council to ensure that the lives and rights of locals will be protected.
Stonehaven and District and Arbuthnott community councils are also against the development.
Mr Booth, whose house would be 2,600ft from the nearest turbine if the windfarm gets the go-ahead, claimed the local community had been misled by the company behind the project.
He said: “The environmental statement presented to the council by the developer virtually excluded 120-130 homes, 3,936ft away from the proposed windfarm which would be affected by 262ft high turbines sitting on top of a 164ft hill.
“We have pointed this out to the council but we have not had any reaction back because we just get to submit representations.”
Members of the Kincardine and Mearns area committee are due to discuss the proposals at their meeting at Stonehaven on Tuesday.
24 August 2006