Controversial plans to build a 16-turbine wind farm in Highland Perthshire have been given the go-ahead by a Scottish Executive Reporter – a year after the scheme was blocked by councillors.
Lord Hope of Craighead, one of Scotland’s most senior judges and a former lord president and lord justice general, was one of more than 600 people who had protested against the plans by Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) to develop the renewable energy site on a hillside at Drumderg, five miles from Alyth.
But the power company has been given full planning permission to develop the 32-megawatt scheme – enough to power 35,000 homes – following a public inquiry into the £30 million development.
The inquiry Reporter has also awarded expenses to SSE against Perth and Kinross Council. SSE has pledged to invest the expenses in energy and environment- related projects for communities in the council’s area.
Councillors rejected plans for the wind farm after claiming they presented an unacceptable risk to the local water supply and a nearby peat area, classified as a conservation site. The council received a total of 665 objections to the plans. Lord Hope, who lives less than a mile from the wind farm site, said in a letter to the council that he objected on four main grounds: landscape; noise; ecology and traffic.
He wrote at the time: “My wife and I believe that there is no compelling need to site a wind farm here, bearing in mind the possibility of using other sites where the visual impact would be less, as well as the potential for locating much larger developments offshore.”
The Law Lord, who was appointed a Lord of Appeal to the House of Lords in 1996, also argued that the giant turbines, each 107 metres tall, could threaten low-flying geese and destroy raptor habitats.
Murdo Fraser, the Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife who lives in Alyth, also objected to the wind farm, claiming the development would have a negative impact on an area heavily dependent on tourism and could “irreversibly destroy” the local environment.
Scottish & Southern announced yesterday it plans to have the wind farm operational by the end of 2008. Ian Marchant, the SSE chief executive, said: “I am pleased that the Drumderg wind farm has finally received consent, although I remain disappointed that it has taken more than three years for this planning process to be completed. Our priorities now are to ensure that the construction work at Drumderg is carried out in a professional manner, which reflects the concerns of local people, and to secure consent to develop additional wind farms.”
A spokesman for SSE said: “When Drumderg is commissioned, SSE will have 200MW of installed wind farm capacity. In addition to Drumderg, SSE is seeking to secure consent during 2006-7 to develop another six wind farms in Scotland, with a total installed capacity of 330MW.”
Jimmy Doig, the leader of Perth and Kinross Council, said: “Perth and Kinross Council has this morning received notification of the Scottish Executive Reporter’s decision regarding the Drumderg wind farm proposal and is currently considering the detail of the decision.”
Four months ago the council’s decision to refuse plans for an 18-turbine wind farm at Greenknowes, near Auchterarder, was also overturned following an inquiry by a Scottish Executive Reporter.
Meanwhile, the Stornoway Trust – the landlord of the community-owned estate – is to write to Allan Wilson, the deputy enterprise minister, expressing its concern about the delay in consent for the £17 million Pentland Road wind farm, which has already been approved twice by the Western Isles Council.
The planning application is by Farm Energy for six turbines, six transformed buildings, a meteorological mast, a control facility and access tracks.
Objections were lodged by the National Air Traffic Services and the CAA on the grounds of potential adverse impact on air services and on the function of the NATS radar at Stornoway Airport. However, the council approved the application in August 2004.
By Frank Urquhart
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