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Firm's fury over windfarm delay  

A long-awaited decision on a controversial windfarm application in the Glenkens has been delayed again.

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) bosses were left angry and frustrated after their proposal to build a development at Blackcraig was deferred.

Fuming project manager John Thouless branded Tuesday’s meeting of the planning and environment services committee “a waste of time.”

Councillors took just 15 minutes to refer the application to a special meeting of the full regional council.

It means Dumfries and Galloway Council must ask for yet another extension to the deadline set by the Scottish Executive – who will have the final say on the 23-turbine project.

The council have been assessing SSE’s Blackcraig bid for five months.

Members went into Tuesday’s discussion in Dumfries aware that the application conformed with Structure Plan policy.

They had cited policy matters as one of the reasons for knocking back the development on December 12.

Structure Plan directives give support to windfarms but Stewartry Local Plan guidance insist development must not have a significant adverse impact on the landscape.

Mr Thouless told the “˜News’: “It seems incredible to think they are unable to make a decision.

“This meeting has been a waste of time for us and the members of the public.

“I don’t see why they could not have made a decision.

“Members are now aware of the clarity between Structure Plan and Local Plan policy.”

Mr Thouless added: “You can only imagine the level of frustration we are feeling right now.

“We feel we have ticked all the boxes in terms of meeting planning requirements.

“And we think it is telling that there have been a lack of objections from consultants such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

“We are absolutely bewildered that the process goes on.”

Blackcraig was up for debate again after a delegation of 12 councillors – led by George Prentice – signed a petition asking for the last decision made by the committee to be assessed again.

It was then expected that the application would be reviewed at a full council meeting.

But the issue was unable to be placed on the agenda in time for the December 20 conference.

The seldom used Standing Order 18.1 – the clause invoked by the 12 members – states that the application must be analysed by the next available committee or sub-committee.

That saw planning and environment services councillors gather round the table again for another bout of Blackcraig arguments.

Despite the issue being one of the biggest in the area for over 50 years, no Stewartry councillor was part of the debating chamber.

Having registered a declaration of interest due to his involvement with the SNH, Castle Douglas councillor Andrew Campbell sent his apologies.

Both Jock Purdie and Patsy Gilroy are on annual leave with the other five Stewartry representatives not part of the planning and environment services committee.

Members wasted no time in voicing their opinions on the chaotic situation with the same councillors deciding again on the same application.

Cree councillor Joan Mitchell started the ball rolling and said: “I’m certainly unhappy that this windfarm is being debated by this committee.

“The decision made the last time was the wrong one.”

Convener Tommy Sloan asked Alex Haswell, the council’s group manager corporate support and governance, of the implications if a member was to change their mind on the proposals.

Mr Haswell replied: “Members are entitled to change their mind. I don’t think there is anything perverse in that.”

Alistair Geddes told the meeting: “I feel this is of specific importance to have a special meeting of the full council.

“If we go to the full council democracy would be accepted.”

That prompted David Bell, operations manager development control, to say: “There is a chance the applicants would agree to a further extension.

“But we have had four extensions already and we really must push on as we will be told that our time is nearly up.”

Tory member Neil McKay believed the application should be sent to the full council and this view was echoed by Mr Sloan.

From then there was only one decision with all councillors agreeing to assess the application for a fifth time.

Supporters of the windfarm project believe the development will regenerate communities in the Glenkens.

But those against Blackcraig say the 365ft turbines would destroy the local landscape and would be seen from as far away as the Isle of Man.

The council will now get longer in order to come to a decision and attempt to agree a new timetable with the developers and the Scottish Executive.

No date has been set for a new hearing, but it is unlikely the matter will be debated at the full council meeting on February 8.

Members will spend most of that day discussing the budget and setting council tax rates for the new financial year.

An SSE spokeswoman added: “We continue to believe in the quality of our application.”

By Colin Paterson

icdumfries

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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