Plans to build a vast wind farm in East Ayrshire have hit a major stumbling block with claims it would cause chaos in Scotland’s skies.
The National Air Traffic Services claim engineering giant AMEC’s proposed site in Dalmellington would disrupt hundreds of flights to and from Scotland every week.
NATS, which controls air traffic at 15 of the UK’s biggest airports, say the turbines would interfere with their radar equipment.
A public inquiry into the planned 85-turbine site was due to be heard this month.
However, NATS has asked for more time to present objections and the inquiry has been rescheduled for February 20.
The objection is being supported by nearby Prestwick Airport, which does its own air traffic control and is less than 20 miles from Dalmellington.
Officials there fear the wind turbines’ interference with radar equipment could turn the area into a no-fly zone for airlines – severely affecting future plans for expansion.
NATS say the blades and towers of the structures reflect radar signals, making them appear to be moving planes.
Air traffic controllers are then forced to re-direct the aircraft to avoid any potential collisions with the “fake” planes.
The airspace above the proposed site is a busy zone and NATS was unable to say exactly how many planes fly there every day.
However, they said if the wind farm went ahead hundreds of planes from Edinburgh and Glasgow would be affected every week, as well as the planes at Prestwick.
Mark Rodwell, chief executive of Prestwick Airport, said, “We have known about AMEC’s proposal since 2002 and we maintain our objection to it, given the potential impact on our air traffic control radar coverage.”
Original plans from AMEC to build 100 turbines at the site were refused by East Ayrshire Council in 2001.
The revised plan, to site 85 turbines measuring 400 feet each, was also rejected by the council in December 2006 before AMEC lodged an appeal with the Scottish Executive.
It’s 10 years since the first wind farm was built in Scotland.
There are now 40 in operation, accounting for about 40 per cent of Scotland’s renewable energy production.
David Hodkinson, managing director of AMEC’s wind energy business, said, “The wind farm has been designed to fit in with the landscape and environment and offers significant economic benefits through job creation and community benefit payments.
“We understand the concerns of the airport and NATS and are continuing to work constructively with them to seek an acceptable solution that would allow them to remove their objections.
“We regret that East Ayrshire Council has not responded positively to our revised proposal, which we feel addresses the concerns they had raised about our previous submissions, and look forward to presenting our case to the inquiry.”
Alan Neish, Head of Planning and Building Control with East Ayrshire Council, said, “There were a number of reasons why we launched a formal objection to the proposed wind farm site.
“One of them was we were worried about the potential impact it would have on Prestwick Airport’s radar system.”
By Gordon Blackstock
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