September 8, 2006

Windfarm raises RAF radar fears

THE Ministry of Defence has confirmed it is investigating a windfarm proposed in Ceres amid fears that it could interfere with RAF Leuchars air base.

MoD officials are concerned that the 13-turbine windfarm planned for the outskirts of the village could affect crucial radar signals from the base and pose problems to low flying jets in poor weather.

Although the MoD looks into all UK windfarm applications as a matter of course, it was only when a protest group brought it to the attention of North East Fife MP, Sir Menzies Campbell, that the Gathercauld project was investigated.

In a letter to the Liberal Democrat leader, a senior MoD official acknowledged “that varying amounts of the blades of the turbines will be detected by the radar”, a factor that had “regrettably” been overlooked before.

The MoD will now reinvestigate the application – due to be submitted by German-based EnergieKontor – and consider whether or not to formally lodge an objection.

As it stands, a holding objection is currently with Fife Council.

An MoD spokesman confirmed: “We have contacted the windfarm developer and will continue to discuss the issues with them to try and find a solution which would allow the current concerns to be lifted.

“The MoD is doing everything necessary to protect the safety of flying into, out of, and all RAF sites, including RAF Leuchars.

“Safety is paramount and if we cannot find a solution, we will not lift our objection.”

The MoD specifically thanked the Ceres and District Environmental and Amenity Protection Group for pointing out the windfarm’s proximity, adding that the letter “rightly expressed concerns regarding the radar line of sight”.

Graham Lang, spokesman for the group, had grown increasingly concerned about many aspects of the windfarm and decided to carry out his own investigation.

With the help of other group members, he presented the case to Sir Menzies, who in turn wrote to the MoD and defence minister Des Browne.

“When we first became aware of this proposal for a windfarm we were concerned that because of the proximity to Leuchars the height and location of the turbines at Gathercauld could impact on the radar and adversely affect the ability of RAF Leuchars to operate in all weathers,” said Mr Lang.

“This would seriously impact on its operational integrity.”

He went on: “While it is good to have our concerns vindicated it is worrying that, but for our action and our MP’s intervention, the original proposal could have proceeded towards a full planning application unchallenged.

“I am very grateful to Sir Menzies for the time he gave to listen to our concerns and for supporting my letter.”

No-one from EnergieKontor was available for comment.

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